World of Warcraft sees decrease in subscriber base

After over six years of subscriber growth, Blizzard mega-popular fantasy MMO World of Warcraft may have reached plateaus. During the financial conference call on Monday for Blizzard's parent company Activision Blizzard it was announced that currently World of Warcraft has 11.4 million subscribers. That's a downturn of Blizzard's previously announced high number of 12 million subscribers back in October of 2010.

It was thought that the release last December of Blizzard's third major commercial expansion for the game, World of Warcraft Cataclysm, would help to boost subscriber numbers again. In January Blizzard announced that sales of Cataclysm had reached 4.7 million copies worldwide in just its first month. However, the recent downturn in subscribers might have happened in part due to the release of Rift, a fantasy MMO from developer Trion Worlds. The game had a massive marketing campaign that directly targeted World of Warcraft players.

During the conference call, Blizzard president Mike Morhaime told investors that World of Warcraft's players "have become much better and much faster at consuming content" and said that those players have gone through the content of the Cataclysm expansion pack faster than previous expansions. Morhaime said that Blizzard does plan to offer up new expansions to the game in a faster time frame than in previous years. Normally World of Warcraft players have had to wait roughly two years between commercial expansion packs.

Even with the decrease in its player base, World of Warcraft is still the biggest MMO game in the world in terms of monthly subscribers and it generates a ton of revenue every month for Activision Blizzard in both monthly fees and other streams. Blizzard is also working on a new MMO game but details about that title have remained a secret.

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