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World of Warcraft: 2008 in Numbers

Posted in WoW Observations with tags , , , , , , , , , , on December 3, 2008 by Mark Pannell

Calendar year 2008 is almost in the books. In just shy of a month, a monumental year for WoW players comes to a close. Looking back on 2008, some interesting statistics stand out. According to Google Insights for Search, the most queries for “World of Warcraft” occurred on November 9th. That was the Sunday before Wrath was released. Six days after Patch 3.0.2 was announced, WoW hit it’s low point of the year. Less people performed searches for our beloved game on August 31st than any other day this year, only matched on October 5th. The date that amazes me is September 15th. Only 5% more people were looking for WoW on that date than on the lowest point of the year. What’s the significance of September 15th? The release date for Wrath of the Lich King was announced. And the searches took a tumble again, coinciding with the September 18th release of Warhammer Online, bottoming out on October 5th. But you can’t keep a good MMORPG down! A huge spike in searches occurred on October 12th, just two days before the release of Patch 3.0.2. As I mentioned before, November 9th was the busiest day for WoW, search engine-wise. But the searches took a plummet from that point on, dropping 24% in ten days.

So who’s doing all of these searches? The US accounts for the biggest chunk, but the runners up came as a bit of a surprise to me. Number two on the list is Georgia. We’re talking about the former Soviet Republic here, not the state. In a dead heat with Georgia were Sweden and Norway, followed closely by Denmark. Scandinavians apparently loves them some WoW. Rounding out the top ten are the Czech Republic, Canada, Australia, Estonia, and Hungary. Will Oceanic servers be experiencing some of the same population issues that we’ve been dealing with at some point?

As big of an entity as WoW is, there will always be others riding on their coattails. Much to the dismay of WoW purists, add-ons were the real winners of 2008. The term “quest helper” experienced a 4050% increase in searches compared to 2007. Let’s assume that 100,000 people searched for QuestHelper in 2007. I don’t have any solid stats in front of me, but 100,000 seems like a safe guess. At any rate, that would equate to over 4 billion searches this year. That, my friends, is insane! Others enjoying significant search engine lovin’ over last year were MMO Champion, WoWscape, Wowhead, and WoW Private Servers. While some may consider users of QuestHelper to be “cheaters,” what they’re doing is perfectly within the confines of Blizzard’s ToS. Users of WoWscape and the other “wow private servers” are not. WoWscape experienced a 170% increase in searches over 2007. Granted, with an ever-growing player base, any IP is going to see an increase in its pirates. WoW is no exception.

So, what do all of these numbers mean? In a year when Age of Conan and Warhammer Online joined the fight and Lord of the Rings Online and Everquest II offered expansions, WoW remains firmly in the driver’s seat. Although many speculated that Blizzard’s new, improved Refer-A-Friend program and PvE to PvP transfers were signs that WoW was in trouble, the numbers don’t support that claim. Oddly, neither of those two search strings made it into the top ten “search terms related to world of warcraft.” In fiscal 2007, Activision Blizzard enjoyed an operating profit of $303 million. That’s not revenue, that’s profit. I’m interested to see how 2008 turns out as the first full year that the merger will really benefit both parties. One way or another, the numbers for 2008 favor WoW and the players who love it. Well, every number except “total server downtime.” Better luck next year.