World of Warcraft:Cataclysm launched on December 7th, and moved a record number of copies. Just over 3.3m were sold in the first 24 hours in the United States, Canada, Mexico, Argentina, Chile, Europe, Russia, Southeast Asia, Australia, and New Zealand. This was an improvement over the 2.8m sold of the last WoW xpack, and is a record for any PC title, though the sales and revenue fell far short of the all time record for any video game, most recently set by Call of Duty: Black Ops, which launched last month and sold over 5.5 m copies (for all 3 consoles plus PC) in the first 24 hours.

    As we do every time another Blizzard title debuts to record sales, let’s speculate about Diablo III sales! From recent results, it seems obvious that no PC-only game will challenge the records set for multi-platform releases. It’s also clear that Blizzard’s popularity in Asia is meaningless for their first-24-hour game sales, since they don’t launch their games at the same time in Japan, China, Korea, etc, and even when they do, no one “buys” games in those countries anymore.

    Starcraft II broke the record for the first 24-hour sales for a strategy title with about 1.5m sold, but despite its immense popularity in Korea and the rest of Asia, it didn’t sell a significant number of copies there in the first day/week/month. This is because box games aren’t sold in those markets; everything is done via online play and hourly/daily/monthly fees. Thus Blizzard’s profits from SC2 in Korea began to roll in months later, when the free trial offers ran out and players began paying for their monthly access.

    No details have yet been released, but there’s every reason to think Diablo III will follow WoW and SC2 in that regard, which means the Diablo III sales (but not profits) will come largely from the same markets that pushed WoW:Cat’s first day sales. And while there might be 2 or 3 or even 4 million people eager to buy the game in those regions, 5.5m+ seems way out of reach, at least during the first day or week.

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