Warcraft subscriptions fall by 800,000

Blizzard CEO attributes losses to Chinese market

Subscriptions to the popular fantasy RPG World of Warcraft have dropped by 800,000, from 11.1 million three months ago to 10.3 million.

In a conference call to discuss Activision's third quarter sales figures, Blizzard CEO Mike Morhaime suggested that the biggest losses were being seen in China.

He then added that World Of Warcraft is "one of the most popular online games in China, and remains by far the most popular subscription-based MMO in the world."

He also admitted that the company was aware that improvements could be made to the MMO, and spoke about a new update that was due in coming weeks, which would feature new content and raids.

"It's really not intended to go out and drive new user acquisition, that's a whole other strategy," he explained.

"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."

The game is used to highs and lows when it comes to subscribers, with numbers falling as players complete new content, and rising again on the release of a new expansion. The latest update, Mists Of Pandaria, was recently announced at Blizzcon.

The plan to include Diablo III access with World Of Warcraft annual passes should also act as a stimulus. The release date for Diablo III was not confirmed in the call beyond 2012.

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Latest comments (14)

Greg Wilcox Creator, Destroy All Fanboys! 7 years ago
Of course, had the game an offline SP mode, perhaps that 800K figure would be a lot less. Also, when you have to give away your upcoming game to folks who pony up money for a yearly premium sub, that's more of a desperation move than a great deal. Still, a lot of folks will bite for sure. Oh.. "stimulus?" Yeah, that word makes me shudder, given it's overuse by some in the media as a "bad" thing (when it's really not if you think about it)...
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Mikolaj Macioszek Translator, Big Fish Games7 years ago
You're saying desperate, I'm saying brilliant.
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Mihai Cozma Indie Games Developer 7 years ago
Well, I played it for 5 years, I plan to buy and play diablo 3, but that didn't make me get that one year subscription. I won't play wow anymore, period. I guess most of the veterans will think they same. The reason? You can't really play Wow and other games in parallel, unless you are a kid or have no job. WoW is a "full time job" in itself, you can spend too much time in other game as you won't progress in WoW. I guess this is valid for all MMOs. So why should I get diablo 3, but won't be able to play it fully for a full year cause I got a subscription? On the other side of things, if i decide to play diablo 3, why should I play 3x more to get the subscription in the first place? I could pay maybe 60$ for 4 months of wow and get diablo and play it for 8 months and total cost is 120$. That is a desperate move, I agree with Greg.
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Show all comments (14)
Wayne Gibson UK Marketing Manager for 7 years ago
Fear the potential success of Old Republic they do.
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I'd say its a pretty savvy move on their part; competition is brewing everywhere for Blizz. I wouldn't call it desperate, just punching back.
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Andy Ross Game Designer, Monumental Games7 years ago
"Fear the potential success of Old Republic they do."

I commend you, sir.
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Mikolaj Macioszek Translator, Big Fish Games7 years ago


1. Having lost all hope; despairing.
2. Marked by, arising from, or showing despair: the desperate look of hunger; a desperate cry for help.
3. Reckless or violent because of despair: a desperate criminal.
4. Undertaken out of extreme urgency or as a last resort: a desperate attempt to save the family business.
5. Nearly hopeless; critical: a desperate illness; a desperate situation.
6. Suffering or driven by great need or distress: desperate for recognition.
7. Extremely intense: felt a desperate urge to tell the truth.

I don't think despair is the word you are looking for when describing a measure by a company that has been number one in this market for 7 years.
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Ben Pilgrim Studying Media and Public Relations, London Metropolitan University7 years ago
Number one in a market where they were the biggest company by far, now they are just conglomerating to success which in itself does work but kills any diversity the industry had. I personally think a drop in subscription will be good, it'll drive competition and creativity and hopefully give new players a reason to buy into the market and play better games.
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Edwin Joseph7 years ago
Im not even surrprised i mean with arenanet's guild wars 2 and swtor coming and then blizzard come back with pandas i mean cmon are they stupid when cata came out i was like awwwWWOMG DRAGON awesome!! Now i just see pandas and im like awwwwwWTF?!?! Im super serial blizz cmon!!
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Gregore Candalez Journalist and Account Manager, FD Com.7 years ago
Blizzard has gotten to a point where it can experiment innovative formulas to see what happens. They are in undeniable decadence, so any idea that works means profit. I am sure the majority of people who frowned upon Mists of Pandaria WILL give it a try. Regardless of lore, context or scenario, it is news, and is appealing.

Yes, they lost 800 thousand subscribers, but they still have ten million, which is too ming-bogglingly much for a subscription-based game. They are obviously worried about the upcoming Star Wars the Old Republic game - which is a different scenario. Some beta testers I know have been calling it a "WoW with lightsabers". This isn't shocking, given the considerable success WoW's gameplay and mechanics have achieved. And Star Wars, in my opinion, will be the last subscription-based major game.

That is due to change, however, with Guild Wars 2, which will use an oldschool formula of online gaming, the same one Blizzard used with Diablo and Diablo 2 - cd-key and no monthly fees. Plus, GW2 is incorporating a wide array of features from many other respectable titles, like D&D Online, Lord of the Rings, and many others. GW2 will change the industry again. That is my bet.
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Duncan Turner Ad Operations MAnager, Curse7 years ago
"Undertaken out of extreme urgency or as a last resort: a desperate attempt to save the family business."

Doesn't sound too far off the mark to me.
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Klaus Preisinger Freelance Writing 7 years ago
The report is public, so there is nothing holding anyone back to look at it and see who is putting a spin on things and how:
[link url=

Page 5:
If not for WoW, Activision's quarterly numbers would be deep in the red, with at around $175 million. Adjusted for a world without Warcraft, even the 2010 report would sit at losses of $693 million, CoD and Starcraft or not.

Page 20:
Subscriptions (i.e. WoW) make up 44% of Activision's business. 10% gone there, means 5% of the entire business gone, investors can't like that. 800.000 people matter.

Page 30:
The Asian market makes up 10% of Activision's business. Whatever happens there is dwarfed by the importance of the European and the North American market.

You see why a number of people which would matter is casually attributed to player number fluctuation in a market which does not?
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Graham Simpson Tea boy, Collins Stewart7 years ago
In the analyst call Mike Morhaine said half the WOW subs were now Chinese. So it would appear the Europe/US churn has already happened previously but was more than offset by new Chinese subs - they just did not reveal it. That would imply the fears of Star Wars are misplaced since a large number of Euro/US MMO gamers already stopped playing WoW. The impact will be smaller. And in defence they are doing some innovative deals like the yearly WoW sub with a free Diablo 3 to hoover them back up.
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Gregg Bayes-Brown Assistant Editor, Ask the Experts7 years ago
Does this mean all the gold farmers have quit?
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