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World of Warcraft Loses 2 Million Subscribers

Is the mega-popular MMO on the downslide?

The World of Warcraft has been that 800 (make that 8,000) pound gorilla in the MMORPG room for seven years now. It has become a worldwide phenomenon, slipping into the mainstream as easily as Pac-Man, Grand Theft Auto, and Call of Duty. The game has a rabid fanbase, was featured in a wildly-popular episode of South Park, and became the inspiration for Felicia Day’s popular web series “The Guild”. WoW boasted over 12 million subscribers for the past few years, but it looks as if the massively successful MMO has finally peaked. This year has seen a noticeable decline in paid subscribers, to the tune of almost 2 million.

While last year’s Cataclysm expansion was designed to bring in new players and also give veterans a bold new take on classic content and areas, it ended up being a temporary fix. The game experienced its first appreciable dip in numbers early this year, dropping to around 11.4 million subscribers. That number slipped to 11.1 by July, and Blizzard announced that WoW lost 800,000 users between July and September.

Mike Morhaime, CEO of Blizzard, spoke in a conference call and stated that the exodus of players has come mainly in the East. Even so, Morhaime said that WoW is still “one of the most popular online games in China, and by far the most popular subscription-based MMO in the world.”

At the recent Blizzcon, the next major expansion for World of Warcraft was announced, called Mists of Pandaria. The new content is decidedly more light-hearted than the Wrath of the Lich King and Cataclysm expansions, and adds a new race (the Pandarans), as well as Pokemon-like battles between pets. Beyond this, Blizzard has been committed to releasing new content updates more often, and expects to do just that in the next few weeks. This content update is “not intended to go out and drive new user acquisition,” says Morhaime, “But it does drive engagement with the game, and so that will impact churn if we do it successfully, and will eventually drive winback, as players tell each other about the content they’re enjoying.”






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