Money Matters - Simplified

World Of Warcraft loses 1.1 million loyal subscribers

Activision Blizzard has disclosed the video game had 9.1 million paying users at the end of June. That is down from a high of more than 12 million two years ago.

9.1 million is still a huge amount of subscribers. World Of Warcraft (WoW) is easily the largest subscriber-based MMO out there. Still, the long-term trends must have Blizzard worried. Since Cataclysm's launch in December 2010, the game has been steadily looosing subscribers. Roughly 2.9 million players have left WoW in 2011 and 2012.

Presumably, players are moving away in order to try out other titles in the same genre, including those who are offered under a free-to-play model, or are taking a break from World of Warcraft while Blizzard is working on new content.

Mike Morhaime, who is the president of Blizzard, told investors that most of those who abandoned the MMO are from Eastern territories and that they are taking a break from the game in order to enjoy another Blizzard title, Diablo III.

During the fall, the development team working on the game is set to launch a new expansion called 'Mists of Pandaria', which will add a new continent for gamers to explore, a new neutral race and one new class to play around with. Activision Blizzard hopes to see 'Mists of Pandaria' reverse the drop in subscribers.

World of Warcraft is the last big subscription-based MMO on the market, after BioWare and Electronic Arts have announced that Star Wars: The Old Republic is also making the jump to free-to-play.

He said that September's release of the Mists of Pandaria bolt-on update, involving a lost continent populated by warrior Panda bears, should see a "substantial number of returning players".

Mr Morhaime signalled that he also hoped gamers attracted to its other online fantasy title could be tempted to crossover.
"There are a surprising number of Diablo players that have never tried World of Warcraft," he said.

Commenting on news reports that the French media conglomerate Vivendi was looking to sell its 60% stake in the games developer, Activision Blizzard's chief executive, Robert Kotick, said only that he remained focused on "the delivery of great games and superior shareholder returns".

But for their most profitable game to be bleeding this badly is rough for the company, and Diablo III not being smash hit, it might be shaping up to be a pretty rough year for Activision.