Activision Blizzard is touting Diablo 4 as the fastest-selling Blizzard Entertainment game of all time — no small feat for a company that also publishes World of Warcraft, and the Overwatch and Starcraft series. But what does the claim really mean?
The news release that mentions Diablo 4’s success, of course, says it includes both console and PC sales, but doesn’t divulge specific figures. Publishers rarely give up this information anymore, largely because they don’t want points of comparison for later releases in the same franchise. That’s why you get claims like “fastest selling,” which are backed by playership numbers, rather than unit sales or hard dollars.
“Diablo 4 has been played for 93 million hours, or over 10,000 years,” Activision Blizzard’s news release says in its first paragraph. Not too bad considering the first players got their hands on it about 100 hours ago (June 2, for those preordering any of its special editions).
Looking back through Activision Blizzard’s earlier statements about big, best, or fastest sellers, though, one finds:
- 2020: World of Warcraft: Shadowlands is touted as the “the fastest-selling PC game of all time, industry wide.” Activision actually did put a number on this, 3.7 million units sold through. Sold through means bought by actual customers, as opposed to “sold-in” which means units that retailers ordered and have on their shelves.)
- 2018: World of Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth is likewise the “fastest selling World of Warcraft expansion ever”
- 2016: Overwatch racked up more than 7 million players — not necessarily sales — in the week after its launch on PlayStation 4, Windows PC, and Xbox One on May 24, 2016. Activision Blizzard then touted 119 million hours logged by Overwatch players. (Two more data points: Overwatch’s beta reached 9.7 million people, and the free-to-play Overwatch 2 had 25 million players in its first 10 days of availability.)
- 2012: Diablo 3 — Here’s a great point of comparison as it’s the direct predecessor to the current game: “3.5 million copies have been sold, setting the new all-time record for fastest selling-PC game.”
The difference, of course, is those three games are all PC launches — Diablo 3 didn’t get console launches until 2013 (PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360) and 2014 (PS4 and Xbox One). Diablo 4 launched simultaneously on PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Windows PC, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X as of June 5.
So just how big a launch is this? Perhaps we’ll find out when Activision Blizzard next reports its quarterly performance to investors — which for a June release would be around September. It still fairly raises the question, did a multiplatform, day-one launch of Diablo 4 deliver sales that were huge multiples of the 3, 4, and 5 million sales Activision Blizzard earlier quoted? Did it barely edge them out?
It’s all a matter of setting and beating expectations. We’ve reached out to an Activision Blizzard representative to ask about Diablo 4’s unit actual unit sales. This bears watching.