That’s subscribers. Not subway sandwiches. Don’t get me wrong: I’d definitely put out a press release and hold an investor call if I misplaced a veritable volcano fortress of sandwiches. In it, I would drastically downgrade my quarterly expectations and ask if I could borrow a few hundred-thousand loaves of bread from anyone. But anyway. Activision gathered its friends and countrymen for another sermon on the moneymount today, and of course, World of Warcraft was a big focus. And while the previous reported total of 9.6 million subscribers was still quite impressive in its own way, it wasn’t exactly on the up-and-up. Since the end of last year, the most massive player in the massively multiplayer arena has bled another 1.3 million people, their shiny crimson change pooling into the gutters below. The kicker? In a decidedly un-Activision move, the publishing behemoth’s actually starting to feel a bit worried.
Emerging from his impregnable cocoon of businessly solitude, Acti CEO Bobby Kotick explained/screeched in some unfathomable tongue:
“Though the majority of our subscriber decline occurred mainly in the East, where we have more subscribers and lower revenue per subscriber, we saw declines in the West as well. While we do believe further declines are likely and we expect to have fewer subscribers at year-end than we do today, World of Warcraft remains one of the most successful franchises in the history of entertainment.”
The plan? Release more content more frequently, which is something Blizzard’s been promising (and inconsistently delivering on) for years. Meanwhile, in spite of WoW’s status as a household name, the MMO titan (who did not once mention its other MMO, Titan) admitted that it’s starting to feel pressure from free-to-play. At least, in, um, Asia. “There has been an increase in competition with free-to-play games in Asia,” said Blizzard CEO Mike Morhaime. “People consume content quickly. We need to create more innovative content to keep people engaged.”
For now, though, 8.3 million is quite a ways to fall from a one-time high of 12 million. I doubt another expansion will be along for quite some time, either, seeing as Mists of Pandaria’s only been in the wild since last fall. Can smaller, meatier content chunks fill the gap? Does it even matter anymore? Obviously, WoW’s far from doomed, but eventually people just get bored of stuff – except for, you know, breathing and kitties. Personally, I’ll probably never touch WoW again, even though it was my life a few years ago. How about you?