About two months back, when Activision Blizzard announced their Q2 2016 results, I was speculating that they might be anxious to start talking about subscription numbers after vowing to not report on them about a year back.
That was an easy thing to vow when the game had bottomed out after the Draenor exodus, hitting subscriber numbers not seen since 2005. But with the last quarterly report things were starting to look rosy again with the Legion expansion coming up, Blizzard was beating around the bush, trying to say how wonderful things were going without actually bringing out the number that would prove it. Sure, the Legion expansion sold well on day one, but how many subscribers were there in the game?
Well, somebody couldn’t hold their tongue… somebody being Tom Chilton. According to a report over at PvP Live, he said, in an interview with the Polish gaming magazine Pixel… well… the following:
Pixel: You guys reached your peak by capturing 12 million users. By the end of 2015 it was only 5.5 million, and after that Blizzard stopped providing statistics. Can we ask, about how many users currently have a paid subscription?
Chilton: As we speak, it’s about 10.1 million. It’s hard to say what future will bring. We have an internal competition in form of Overwatch, but it’s possible we will reach 12 million once again. The potential is there as there are over 100 million registered accounts.
Pixel is apparently a magazine is of the old school print variety, so no link to the original source in Polish, but translations have been popping up on Reddit and forums like NeoGAF. [Edit: Picture of the Polish text.]
So there it is, out in the open again, a subscriber number. Another data point in the cycle of life that is MMORPGs.
Did Tom Chilton get advance clearance to talk about that number? The man has blurted out some unfortunate things in the past that have come back to haunt the company, things like equating garrisons to housing and such. Ah well.
And what does that number mean. Blizzard’s partner in China recently changed over from an hourly to a monthly subscription model. Did that change how the count was done? Is it more accurate or less?
Finally, if he did get the okay, is this how it will be going forward, with Blizzard? Are they going to tell us about peaks but go silent when it comes to valleys in the subscriber wave?
Hat tip to Liore for sending this my way.
Addendum: Blizzard denies everything.
“Our policy for almost a year now is that we do not talk about subscriber numbers,” said the Blizzard spokesperson. “And Tom did not do that with this publication.”