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Blizzard – Subscribers and Independence of a Sort July 26, 2013

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in Blizzard, entertainment, World of Warcraft.
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Activision-Blizzard announced some preliminary numbers in advance of their quarterly report and investors call.  Earnings are up, profits are up, subscribers are down.

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On the subscription watch front, it was announced that World of Warcraft dropped from 8.3 to 7.7 million subscribers since their last report, again proving that they work in a completely different scale from other MMOs.  How many MMOs even have 600K paying customers?  And how many could afford to lose that many?

And while a loss of 600K subscribers is a blow, warnings of ongoing subscriber attrition was brought up previously.  And at least 600K is less than the 1.3 million subscribers they shed in the previous quarter.

All of which is a discussion point as those who attempt to track such things make another mark on their charts.

But the reason that there is even a preliminary report is because Activision-Blizzard is buying itself out of Vivendi.

Vivendi has been looking for ways to plunder the cash cow that is Activision-Blizzard in order to stave off its own financial woes.  Now it seems that Vivendi will get some money, but will lose control of Activision-Blizzard, its ownership stake dropping from 60% to 12%.

Now, will this change alter anything for Blizzard?  Bobby Kotick will still be in charge, and all the more so with an investment group he leads buying into the new situation.  But as Activision-Blizzard was the cash cow in Vivendi’s eyes, Blizzard remains such in the Activision-Blizzard family.  Blizzard in general, and World of Warcraft in particular, carries the company freight three quarters out of four in every fiscal year.  In that fourth quarter a Call of Duty game ships an eclipses Blizzard for a bit.  As long as Blizzard keeps to that role, I suspect that they will continue to operate as before.  But dropping subscriptions have to be a cause of worry.  There may come a point where WoW ceases to be insanely profitable.  And with Titan pushed out and nothing else big on the horizon, Blizzard needs to keep Azeroth well populated for a few more years.

Comments»

1. Red - July 26, 2013

I’m not surprised that MOP failed. The panda ascetic really did not fit the rest of the game. I wonder if Blizzard might return to thier roots and create a bit of a sandbox for wow.

2. babaganusz - July 27, 2013

“…a bit of a sandbox for wow.”

oh, that would be fantastic. i faded out before Cataclysm’s release. which took a lot of ‘meh’, lemme tell ya, because in three years i spent an entire year, real-time, on this beast. (i realize that works out to a vaguely-sane-looking 8 hours a day on average, but i went without for months at a time.)

also, i think you may have meant “the ascetic panda aesthetic”, but i claim no special knowledge :)

3. Wilhelm Arcturus - July 27, 2013

@Red – “Failed” is an odd word to use. After all, it sold enough copies to make other publishers jealous. It got enough people to resubscribe to make another MMO outrageously successful. It got those people to hang around longer than they did for SWTOR.

And yet I know what you mean. It failed to establish or rekindle the sort of long term relationship for a lot of people that the game had in the past. I was really into the game through WotLK. But after that, it just wasn’t the same. Or, maybe, it was both more and less of the same.

Still, I have to laugh at some of the reactions. I saw an editorial tacked on to the end of a report on this that basically said that WoW was pretty much done and the author couldn’t wait for Blizz to shut it all down and move on to something else. And not an MMO. As though, at 7.7 million players the game was still not insanely profitable and vastly more successful than any competitor.

Plus, given that you can still play Warcraft II and the original Diablo on Battle.net, I expect that Blizz will keep WoW around for a long time yet.

4. Mekhios - July 28, 2013

Even if they place WoW in caretaker mode (and some would argue they already have) Blizzard is still making money out of the game. It is still a monthly subscriber service and players are still buying stuff in the cash shop.

Even if WoW dropped to 500,000 subscribers Activision simply has to scale down the server farm and reduce maintenance staff accordingly.

On a side note I did try the panda expansion for a couple of weeks. In an oddly stupid way it was fun but with the complete dumbing down of the game it has basically become a tourist MMO on rails. There is no challenge left in the game and at no stage did I ever have that risk/reward feeling. The pokemon pet battles and hand holding quests are infused into the fabric of the game and it is nothing like the original game.


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