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WoW sees Q1 subscriber fall

The game that pushed MMOs into the mainstream sees subscribers drop by 1.3 million this year, with further decreases expected.

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Reaching its peak of 12 million subscribers in 2010, World of Warcraft (WoW) was a success from the very start, selling 240 000 copies in the US on its first day. Within six months, it boasted 1.5 million subscribers worldwide.

With its subscriber number now resting at eight million, after having lost 1.3 million subscribers over the last three months alone, Activision CEO Bobby Kotick told investors that Activision was still committed to the game, and acknowledged there was a need for change to meet the ever-changing market demands.

The latest iteration in the Warcraft series, World of Warcraft has become a household name that has enjoyed massive commercial success throughout its almost decade-long run. Released in 2004 (25 November - the 10th anniversary of the Warcraft series), the game enjoyed warm critical reception. Receiving scores like Gamespot's 9.5/10 and Eurogamer's 8/10, there was certainly no shortage of impressed players.

Despite retaining the 'World's biggest MMORPG (massively multiplayer online role-playing game)" title, the shift is far more accelerated than previous decreases - which the game has always recovered from, something Blizzard CEO Mike Morhaime was quick to point out to Seeking Alpha.

"We've always seen players come and go from World of Warcraft. Smoothing out that transitional period is something we're studying, as we adjust our approach to player behaviour and preferences," he said.

"It's important to note that the nature of online games has changed, and the environment [is] becoming far more competitive, especially with free-to-play games," Kotick said.

"To address this, we're working to release new content more frequently to keep our players engaged longer and make it easier for lapsed players to come back into the game. We believe in the long-term value of this franchise and will continue to commit substantial resources to World of Warcraft."

Many more recent MMOs have been titled as "WoW killers" during development, but all have failed to knock the titan from its place of honour, although some have been blamed by WoW developers for player counts decreasing.

"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," Kotick concluded.

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