The fastest-selling PC game ever is a 'World of Warcraft' expansion

'Shadowlands' has helped keep the 16-year-old MMO alive.

Blizzard Entertainment

When you think of hot-selling PC games, you probably think of the annual Call of Duty refresh or Rockstar’s latest magnum opus. However, the all-time record just went in a (somewhat) unexpected direction. Blizzard claims that World of Warcraft: Shadowlands, an expansion for its 16-year-old MMO, is now the fastest-selling PC game “of all time.” Gamers bought about 3.7 million copies worldwide in the game’s first full day of availability, pushing past the 3.5 million of the previous record holder — conveniently, Blizzard’s own Diablo III.

The developer was also keen to point out that World of Warcraft was enjoying a revival before the launch. The online RPG had the highest number of subscribed players in the months up to and immediately after an expansion launch compared to any point in the past decade. More people have been playing year-to-date than in the same period in any of the past 10 years, Blizzard added, and total player time for the time frame “nearly doubled” compared to the same point in 2019.

There are some caveats. Blizzard is clearly focused on paid games, not free-to-play or giveaways. The Total War Saga: Troy giveaway saw 7.5 million people claim a copy within 24 hours, for instance. It’s also notable that other World of Warcraft expansions have come close — Cataclysm sold 3.3 million copies in 2010. Shadowlands is doing well, but its all-time highs aren’t that much higher.

We’d add that the COVID-19 pandemic may have played a significant role in uptake. If you’re keeping safe at home instead of heading out, you’ll have much more time to devote to hours-long raids and level grinding.

Even so, the revival is notable. World of Warcraft was one of the most popular games of any kind for a long while, but faded in recent years as rival online experiences and an aging engine worked against it. Virtually any other MMO would have been on the cusp of shutting down, if it hadn’t already. The question, of course, is whether or not this is sustainable. There’s no guarantee people will keep playing as the pandemic (hopefully) eases in 2021. If nothing else, this shows the Warcraft name still has a lot of value.