JULY 25, 2012 • Blizzard Ent. has set Sept. 25 as the release date for the new Mists of Pandaria expansion to World of Warcraft. The base package will be available at retail and digitally for $39.95. A $79.95 Collector’s Edition will also be available at retail. What is somewhat novel is that Blizzard is marketing a $59.95 Digital Deluxe version for $59.95 that includes all of the in-game virtual items from the more expensive retail edition. The most popular of these items include a new flying mount and companion pet. What’s more, consumers who purchased the standard version of the MMO at retail or online will be able to upgrade to the Deluxe package for $20. The $79.95 Collector’s Edition adds a soundtrack CD, a collectible art book, a behind-the-scenes video production, as well as a mouse pad.
Impact: Blizzard really needs Pandaria this fall. World of Warcraft usage has declined significantly and only a major expansion can turn that around by attracting lapsed subscribers back to the MMO. The good news is that Mists of Pandaria looks like it will be a big release. What is interesting is the three SKU approach. The $40 and $60 releases are designed more for digital downloads while the $80 version adds the physical element. This could be a real test for how much consumers care about virtual items versus physical items such as books, CDs etc. Blizzard may also be mindful that it is easier to lure back players with the $40 investment, people who probably will be more open to spending an additional $20 later after they are back in the game.