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Blizzard's Frank Pearce predicts renewed subscriber growth with Cataclysm, China

If you've been following World of Warcraft's published subscriber numbers for a while now, you know that we haven't seen a rise in WoW subscribers since late 2008. Blizzard's been holding steady on a figure of 11.5 million subscribers. But, according to Frank Pearce, Blizzard's Executive Vice President of Product Development, that's going to change.

When asked if by VG247's Adam Hartley if he thought WoW's subscribers had permanently peaked, Pearce had this to say:
"I mean, you can look at that number and if you look at some of the details around it ... In China, for example, we haven't even launched Wrath of the Lich King yet, and that expansion is already 18-plus months old. They're still playing The Burning Crusade there, because we're waiting for approval for Wrath from the appropriate agencies. And once we get that approval and launch Wrath in China then I think we will see growth."
Pearce also noted that "win-back" of subscribers who had left the game after previous expansions is particularly high for WoW, and that subscriber counts should grow when Cataclysm is released.
"Hopefully we will get some people back from Cataclysm as well. I don't think 11.5 million is a peak, necessarily, but there are certain things that we need to do and need to do well in order to see it go further."
Like refining the 1-60 game, an area many players have never gotten past, no doubt. You can read the full interview with Frank Pearce at VG247.

[via Massively]

Filed under: Blizzard

Blogatelle signs off

One more major WoW-related blog has closed its doors. Too Many Annas, among others, notes that Blogatelle has called it quits, saying that Sean and Jess over there both feel they've come to the point where they've run out of things to say. While the blog itself is definitely a nice achievement -- it was an excellent blog centered on roleplaying (we've mentioned it before here on the site as an excellent resource for RPers) -- they will unfortunately leave a number of series behind, including the Katafray project, which followed a roleplaying Paladin up through the levels in Azeroth. As Anna says, they definitely deserve a hat tip, both for giving the RP community a solid and steady blogging voice, and for being accessible enough to bring in new RPers.

This closing follows the shuttering of a few other WoW blogs lately, most famously those of BRK and Resto4Life. You might say three is a trend, sure, but on the other hand, we've seen a lot of blogs and podcasts grow as well lately. Four years in, there are going to be all kinds of people in the community, in all kinds of places regarding their interest to the game. Anyone who sees a few bloggers step away to do other things and cites it as a sign that the game is on its last legs needs to keep looking. We're sorry to lose some popular bloggers, but it sure looks from here like the community is stronger than ever.

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Fan stuff, Virtual selves, Blizzard

Steelseries partnering with Best Buy, credits WoW for growth

We've heard before about World of Warcraft strutting up the PC gaming market before, but could this game also be holding up the PC game accessories market? Seems that way for Steelseries -- they're the makers of the WoW mouse that we've mentioned (the one that might not be quite kosher with Blizzard's Terms of Service, use with caution). They've just recently inked a deal with Best Buy to carry some of their products (including the WoW mouse), and World of Warcraft played so much of a part in the deal that CEO Bruce Hawver credited Blizzard's MMO with creating his "high-quality gamers": "The way I used to pick up the phone after school, now, kids log into World of Warcraft and chat... Online gaming might cost $14 to $18 a month – less than a single movie visit for two people."

It does follow -- if WoW is one of the only reasons left for people to spend money on PC games, it does seem that it would be one of the only reasons for them to spend money on gaming accessories. High-end mice and keyboards use to be the domain of the FPS player -- guys like Fata1ity pimped their own lines and all the mice bragged about their resolution and ease of use. But the PC market has changed, and MMOs are the game of the day now -- everything is about squeezing function into as many buttons as possible and reaching this 11 million player group roaming around Azeroth. If Steelseries and other accessory manufacturers want to sell their products, they've got to try and sell them to us.

Filed under: Items, Analysis / Opinion, Odds and ends, Blizzard, Add-Ons, Hardware

Blizzard planning Wrath launch in China "as soon as possible" after US


Mike Morhaime spoke up about World of Warcraft in Activision's earnings conference call last week (strange, since there was almost no sign of Blizzard at the Activision press conference during E3), and he spoke about Blizzard's plan for Wrath of the Lich King's release in China. In the past, there's been a signficant delay between releases in the US and Eastern companies (not that it's hurt the popularity there). And Blizzard says they want to close that delay, but it's up to the government over there to approve the content -- in the past, the government of China has asked for changes to be made to the game, and Blizzard says the release schedule is dependent on their approval.

Morhaime also said that the game continues to grow -- they've seen big growth around marketing campaigns, the holiday season (when people buy the game for others), and the release of new content. And you don't have to be a WoW expert to see that they're going to hit a perfect storm of all three later this year. This could be the biggest winter the World of Warcraft has ever had.

[via WorldofWar.net]

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Blizzard, News items, Expansions, Wrath of the Lich King

Vivendi makes $1.5 billion in 2007, BC pushes Blizz up 58% from 2006

A few days ago we tried to estimate how much Blizzard was making from those 10 million accounts, but now we know for sure: it's actually around $1.2 billion (which is up 58% from 2006). Now, you can probably see that that's only $500 million short of the estimate that we were trying to prove was wrong, but don't forget that the $1.2 billion isn't just subscription fees-- it includes all those sales of Burning Crusade last year at full release price. What Blizzard earns from subscription fees is just part of that total.

Still, a $1.5 billion year for Vivendi (especially when their other games divisions actually dropped by almost 30%) is good news for them. Of course, the question they (and more specifically, Activision Blizzard) have to be wondering about is if the success can continue. If Blizzard can release a new expansion this year and hold off the coming threats in the MMO industry, they'll be looking at even bigger numbers in 2008. But that's a lot to ask-- there's no question Vivendi (and Activision) will come up with huge amounts of profit this year, but growth of this magnitude will be a tough hill to climb.

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Odds and ends, Blizzard, Economy

Blizzard on WoW's success



Greg over at the Guardian Gamesblog has been chatting with Itzik Ben Bassat, VP of Business Development for Blizzard, about WoW's success in Europe and worldwide. He hints at possible console versions:

Consoles will become increasingly important to the online world and obviously as a leading company in the online world we would like to use the great tools that the 360 and PS3 offer to bring Blizzard quality to console owners. There is nothing confirmed yet though.

Also, more hints on future development:

At the moment we are not announcing anything but we have several projects concerning the three worlds (Starcraft, Diablo and Warcraft) that we will announce when we feel comfortable that they match the quality of our previous games.

Intriguing stuff.

[Fanart by Ralf van der Hoeven of Holland.]

Filed under: Blizzard

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