World of Warcraft: Dragonflight is the first expansion in 10 years not to set fire to previous sales record

The streak is broken.

Image via Activision Blizzard

With every new expansion, World of Warcraft grows bigger, and so do the wallets of Activision Blizzard, as each new addition to the MMO has proven to be more financially successful than the last. However, for the first time in 10 years, that’s not the case. Activision Blizzard’s latest financial report reveals that the newest adventure in Azeroth, World of Warcraft: Dragonflight, has failed to meet or exceed the sales of the game’s previous expansion, Shadowlands, which was released in 2020.

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In their Q4 2022 financial results, Activision Blizzard said that “early Dragonflight sales have not reached the level of the prior expansion, which is quite the change from the last decade for the MMO giant. Since 2014, every subsequent expansion that has been released has outsold the previous entry at launch. 2014’s Warlords of Draenor sold 3.3 million copies, matched by 2016’s Legion, then beaten by 2018’s Battle for Azeroth with 3.4 million, and then beaten again by 2020’s Shadowlands with 3.7 million. You’d need to go back to 2012’s Mist of Pandaria to see the last time this occurred.

We don’t have the exact number, but we know it is less than the sales of 2020’s Shadowlands at launch. However, Activision Blizzard seems to be in good spirits and noted that they plan to deliver more content for Dragonflight expansion than they have in the past, also adding that post-launch subscriber retention in the western markets is stronger than in recent expansions, meaning more players are sticking around after launch than before.

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These low sales also will come as a surprise given that fans and critics have reviewed the Dragonflight expansion rather favorably, with many citing the changes to both professions and the return of talent trees as major praise points. Dragonflight is also the first expansion to receive a content roadmap. The developers plan to release substantial new content over 2023, which may see these numbers get a boost in the coming months.

In the company’s financial results, Activision also mentioned the upcoming mobile title, Warcraft: Arclight Rumble, and said that the game continues to “progress well through regional testing.”