Which is the more successful XCOM expansion: Enemy Within or War of the Chosen?

They’ve both received incredible reviews, but is War of the Chosen or Enemy Within the more successful XCOM expansion pack?

Read more: Is an XCOM 2 expansion pack on the way? [UPDATED]

Let’s face it: a single review is a pretty awful way of determining the success of a game—and it’s the same for DLCs and expansions too. No matter how objective you try to be, you’ll always have bias.

For example, I might rate Enemy Within a better expansion purely because of my enormous hard-on for rocket punches that didn’t return in War of the Chosen—something that I will never forgive Firaxis for. If you’re less inclined towards rocket punches, then maybe my review wouldn’t be a good measure of success for you.

So what’s the answer?

Instead of a review, I crowd-sourced the measures of success, using loads of other people’s opinions instead of my own, including:

  • Number of concurrent players at release
  • Increase in the number of players compared to the parent game’s baseline
  • Metacritic review scores, from both critics and the public
  • How much the game got fans talking ’round the web, using the dedicated /r/xcom subreddit as a sample population.

With these measures, we can finally get an answer to the question of which is the more successful title: War of the Chosen, or Enemy Within.

If you just want to get straight to the results, jump to the end of this article and look for the table.

NB I’ve only used Steam data here because it’s the most easily accessible. These numbers doesn’t include console/physical sales/players. If anyone has a way to get this data easily, please do let me know in the comments below!

1. Concurrent players

Pair of controllers in from of a television

Winner: War of the Chosen

War of the Chosen wins here, with 40,000 concurrent players on XCOM 2 on release day, compared to 30,000 for Enemy Within and the original XCOM reboot.

Using data from SteamDB, we can see exactly how many people were actually playing XCOM or XCOM 2 on the release of their expansions. This tells us the baseline popularity of the game, considering both returning fans and those who may have picked up the game for the first time after hearing about the expansion.

Unfortunately, we can’t get the number of players who were only playing the expansion pack rather than the base game on those days.

Why did it win?

XCOM 2: War of the Chosen had a far ‘bigger’ release than Enemy Within: more marketing, more original players and an enormous number of features. It helped that it was building on the enormous success of the original expansion pack too. War of the Chosen was essentially standing on the shoulders of Enemy Within, so it’s no surprise that it had more concurrent players.

2. Re-attraction of original player numbers


Winner: Enemy Within

Enemy Within blew War of the Chosen out of the water, managing to attract just under 50 per cent of its initial launch numbers back, compared to War of the Chosen’s 25 per cent.

This measure (also drawn from SteamDB) is designed to track how many people returned to the game after dropping off after release, or enticing those who weren’t owners before but decided to drop some cash upon the release of the expansion pack. After all, what is a successful piece of DLC designed to do if not boost the numbers of the parent game?

XCOM started off with about 70,000 on release, gaining back 30,000 on the release of Enemy Within, while War of the Chosen sucked back about 40,000 of the original 130,000.

Why did it win?

It could be that there is a kind of saturation point for XCOM games. Even the best expansion pack in the world suffers from a point where a higher quality just doesn’t have the oomph to draw back players. 30,000–40,000 might just be that limit.

Of course, it may be as simple as War of the Chosen having a far higher price point than Enemy Within, and people being put off. Occam’s Razor and all that.

3. Critical and community reviews

Spongebob and Bubblebath

Winner: Alright, we’ll call it a draw

Both War of the Chosen and Enemy Within received excellent scores from game critics and the community alike. Metacritic puts WotC at a cool 88/100 and 8.3/10, and Enemy Within at 86/100 and 8.0/10.

You could say that WotC won by a hair’s breadth, but really it’s too close to call.

Reviews are a nice and simple way to measure success, but as I said above, they can be biased. That’s why Metacritic is useful: when you average out the biases, you get something a little closer to the truth. Hopefully, anyway.

Why did it win?

Both games have done fantastically with critics and players, both clearly adding some serious quality and by anyone’s measure being two excellent examples of expansion packs done right.

Do note, however, that Enemy Within has had more reviews than War of the Chosen at the time of writing, so there may still be some shifting of scores to come.

4. ‘Cultural capital’ AKA the hypetrain

The Hype Train

Winner: War of the Chosen

Using the XCOM subreddit as a population group and data from Reddit Metrics, the period just after War of the Chosen saw almost 10 times as many subscribers joining the community compared to a similar period for Enemy Within.

Sometimes measures of success aren’t quite so easy to quantify as reviews and player numbers. If you created a game that was free to play, made you no money, but still got heaps of downloads and everybody was talking about it, you’d probably still call that a success right? It’s not all about the money, after all.

On the first few days after release, War of the Chosen saw hundreds of subscribers join the community of /r/xcom, while Enemy Within lagged behind significantly.

Of course, this might just be due to the number of users on Reddit increasing in general. There are, after all, now 234 million Reddit users in 2017, and I’ll bet you anything you like it was significantly smaller back when Enemy Within was released at the end of 2013.

Why did it win?

Bigger marketing budgets, a bigger community, building on the previous game’s success; it’s easy to see why War of the Chosen won in terms of hype.

People were going nuts over the possibility of an expansion pack, myself included, so it’s no surprise that a lot of people would want to talk about it and share their experiences when it finally came out.

Final results

Measure Enemy Within War of the Chosen
Concurrent players 30,000 40,000
Returning players percentage 50% 25%
Review scores 86/100, 8.0/10 88/100, 8.3/10
Hype levels Moderate High
Overall Winner War of the Chosen

There you have it. By the measure I’ve put together here, War of the Chosen is the more successful expansion pack so far. It looks like experience, a bigger budget and a little more time in the oven can make a big difference to the overall success of an expansion pack.

But perhaps the best is still yet to come for War of the Chosen. The optimists among us are hoping for an integration of the almost-mandatory Long War mod from Pavonis Interactive. There’s no news yet—but that’s what they said among War of the Chosen just a few months ago.

Enjoy all the new features, factions and enemies of War of the Chosen. But remember, Commander, there’s always room for a few more rocket punches…

Which do you think was a better expansion pack? Let me know in the comments below!

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