Guild Wars 2 Nabs ‘Fastest Selling Western MMO’ Crown, Looks East for More Records

This MMO sold three million in just nine months.

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ArenaNet

The fastest selling MMO in the history of Western video games? Why World of War–err, wait a second…not World of Warcraft? Doesn’t WoW have a bazillion chart-topping subscribers? Isn’t it still cooking along nine years after it launched back in prehistoric November 2004?

It does and it is, though its numbers have fallen precipitously in recent years…you know, as people finally run out of barrel-sized candles to burn at both ends (and despite Blizzard’s admirable attempts at keeping the multifaceted content train a-chuggin’). Still, it took WoW years to reach its record-shattering, apex predator heights. Rome wasn’t built in a day and all that jazz.

How about a year then? Guild Wars 2 debuted last August and shot off the block like Usain Bolt, bringing the game an enormous (and apparently sustained) stock of subscribers. DFC Intelligence, an international market research firm focused on cross-platform video game metrics, just joined hands with Guild Wars 2 developer ArenaNet to announce that the game is now the fastest-selling MMO in history — and that’s just counting European and North American sales.

ArenaNet isn’t saying how many copies it’s sold to date, perhaps saving that for a flurry of one-year anniversary press releases (the one-year mark is technically August 28), but bases that “all-time fastest selling” claim on sales that topped three million during the game’s first nine months, so through May 2013 (counting from September 2012).

DFC analyst David Cole says his company came to its conclusions about the sales record by “triangulating against multiple data sources” (which is keep-out-of-the-weeds-speak for “trust our wizard math”). When I asked for clarification about whether ArenaNet and DFC mean Guild Wars 2 is the fastest-selling MMO worldwide or just in the West, I was told that since no one has solid data on Eastern sales, they had to stick with “in the West,” but that it’s probably true (across the board) in terms of sales, since Eastern MMOs are given away for free.

Cole goes on to mention ArenaNet’s next big project, too: tackling the East. While the appetite for MMOs in the West still appears to be strong, the player base in countries like China — a country with over 1.35 billion citizens and more people online than the total population of the U.S. — is massive, raking in an astonishing $5.1 billion in games revenue for the first half of 2013 alone (of that figure, $3.8 billion came from online PC gaming). That’s roughly twice what gamers have been spending in an entire year playing MMOs in the U.S.

ArenaNet says it expects Guild Wars 2 to “experience rapid growth once it releases in China, where the player-base has the potential to exceed that of the West.” So if this three million in nine months figure — which, assuming sustained growth, would now be three million plus sales since May — doesn’t turn around, and Eastern sales live up to ArenaNet’s aspirations, you’d be well into World of Warcraft territory, say in the vicinity of six or seven million (or more) users combined. Imagine that.

To get the game off the ground in China, ArenaNet is partnering with KongZhong Corporation, a Chinese multimedia conglomerate that specializes in mobile and online games and currently holds a license to operate Wargaming.net’s portfolio (including World of Tanks). While Guild Wars 2 doesn’t have a formal launch date in the country yet, its second round of testing kicks off in September, and what the heck, you might find this interesting: a peek at how ArenaNet’s marketing the game to the Chinese (not in English, obviously).

Speaking as a guy who’s been playing modern MMOs since beta testing Ultima Online over a dial-up modem more than a decade ago, Guild Wars 2 takes the cake (and candles, party hats, sporks, bibs and presents). I haven’t had the time I’d like to play it as relentlessly as I might once have (you know, in the hazy green-gold glow of undergrad), but every time I sneak back for an evening or weekend afternoon, a little voice in my head goes “You’re crazy — crazy — not to play this more.”

If you haven’t given Guild Wars 2 a shake yet, ArenaNet’s offering a free trial between Friday Aug. 23 and Sunday Aug. 25 (the game itself is subscription-free, but normally requires you pay upfront — $50 for the standard edition, $70 for a deluxe version with bonus items). And last but not least, check out this clever infographic put together by a couple of talented designers/data aggregators at NeoGAF, which summarizes several of the game’s first year feats.

guild-wars-2-infographic

Charlie Green & Will Armstrong IV