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World of Warcraft loses 1.3M subscribers since February, down to 8.3M

WoW loses 13 million subscribers since Feb down to 8 mil
Today's Activision-Blizzard financial reports states World of Warcraft took a subscriber hit this quarter, losing 1.3 million players since February.

The loss brings the total number of WoW players down to 8.3 million, its lowest level since the launch of the Burning Crusade expansion in 2007. Subscriber levels have fallen by about a third since WoW's post-Cataclysm peak of 12 million subscribers. The loss is hardly unusual -- you have to remember that WoW is a 9-year-old game, and we're at a pretty uninteresting time in the expansion cycle.

Have we mentioned yet that we're really excited to see if Blizzard is announcing a new MMO at BlizzCon?

Filed under: Blizzard, The Burning Crusade, BlizzCon, Cataclysm, Mists of Pandaria

The World of Warcraft in numbers

Business Management has a really interesting graphic up (that they say came partly from Eurogamer.net, but I didn't see it over there) that breaks down WoW "by the numbers." It features an interesting series of stats about the game, in what I call an Oatmeal-style format, everything from number of players and items (30,000) to number of locations (1400) and the most commonly looted item every day (Frostweave). I think these stats all came from a few different places -- from a talk given at Austin GDC last year, to the toplist over on the official WoW site (of course, that chart is constantly updated, so Onyxia wasn't always the deadliest mob, and Frostweave wasn't always the most looted.

But it is cool to see all of the numbers stacked up in a row in such a stylish way. And 3.6 million pieces of Saronite Ore turned into 3 million Saronite bars? If that's true, why am I paying so much for it at the AH? 192 quests completed per second is pretty wild, too. That's like three entire Oracles reputation grinds (give or take a few dailies), all completed in this second. And this one. And this one.

Filed under: Items, Virtual selves, Odds and ends, Blizzard, Quests, Bosses

The two steps of ability development


After someone asks a question on the forums about the new Mage Tier 10 bonus and the numbers behind it, Ghostcrawler brings up a little interesting insight into the way Blizzard puts these abilities and attributes together. He says that there are two steps to implementing a new ability: mechanics first, and then numbers later. That may seem common sense (and to a certain extent, it definitely is), but it's interesting to note that it's always what the ability does first, and then numbers later. Blizzard is much less likely (relatively speaking of course, and there are plenty of exceptions to this rule) to put a new ability into the game than just tweak current numbers.

It makes sense, and if there's a new ability you've been waiting to see in the game, maybe the reason Blizzard hasn't tackled it yet is that they're working on tweaking numbers to try and fix it without starting up a new mechanic. Ghostcrawler also says that this is the PTR we're dealing with, and so of course those Tier 10 bonuses aren't set in stone yet, just like everything else being tested. They don't call it the PTR for nothing.

Filed under: Mage, Tips, Odds and ends, Blizzard, Expansions

Researching virtual economies to learn about real ones


Researchers are apparently using economies in virtual worlds like Everquest, EVE Online, and of course our own World of Warcraft to determine how real-world economies work, according to this article by Reuters. Scientists have, of course, used WoW to model real-world behavior before, but that was specifically for something biological, and thus there were quite a few differences between the virtual model and the real application. In economies, however, it's all just money and numbers, so researchers can easily see real patterns and movements in the data.

Unfortunately, the article doesn't go too deeply into their results (and it only talks about their findings from Everquest), but there is one nugget of conclusion: the economists saw inflation spike in one server over 50% in just five months. They say that the population rose on the server, which apparently made some items hard to find, thus raising prices. Economists say they've seen that same thing in the real world before: in developing nations, and in war zones. We can probably see similar effects right around a patch, or even just on weekends. As more people run to the AH to buy certain items, inscriptions or enchants, the price on those is going to rise. Interesting stuff -- it would be cool to hear what other similarities these guys have found between the virtual world and the real.

Filed under: Patches, Items, Analysis / Opinion, Odds and ends, Blizzard, Making money

Is WoW's audience still increasing?


I'm not sure how much of this is legit, but stick with us for the information first, and then stay for the debunking. Edward Hunter over at Gamasutra decided to do some poking around in comScore's MediaMetrix application (which can track, based on a survey of a few million users, access to various applications on a computer -- which programs are run when), and he found something that surprised him: despite the economic downturn and the emergence of a few other popular MMOs recently, World of Warcraft's audience is estimated globally at 13.1 million. In other words, it's still growing from the last official numbers (11.5 million players worldwide) we heard.

Now, the first issue we'd have with these numbers is the situation in China -- Hunter doesn't mention it at all, and in fact his graph (from comScore) doesn't have any dips at all in it, even though the game, and presumably its millions of players, went offline over there earlier this year. That right there throws a wrench into all of these estimations -- it's very likely comScore's information is just plain wrong.

Read more →

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Virtual selves, Odds and ends, Blizzard, Rumors

Survey: Figuring out the faction transfer numbers


I've been thinking about this ever since the faction changes went live: obviously, Blizzard will never actually release the numbers on how many server transfers or faction changes they do, just because they are notoriously guarded about the information they release, not least because riots are pretty easy to incite on the forums (imagine the reaction if Blizzard officially said that Alliance was the more popular faction). But I wonder nevertheless: how many players have transferred their characters over from one faction to another already? And lots of people seem to think that the vast majority of transfers are Alliance to Horde (not to mention I've heard many anecdotal stories of people flooding back to the Horde), but is that true?

Obviously, we don't have access to all of Blizzard's audience, and our polls are definitely much less scientific than the data Blizzard gets to look at (you better believe they're tracking transfers and faction and race choices with a close eye, just as they're tracking server populations 24/7), but just for the heck of it, we'll ask. After the break, we've got a few polls designed to give us a very general look at how transfers are playing out so far. There's a lot of anecdotal experiences flying around since transfers went live, but I'd like to know, a little more objectively, just how things are panning out.

Read more →

Filed under: Horde, Alliance, Polls, Analysis / Opinion, Realm Status, Blizzard, Factions, Cataclysm

NPD: World of Warcraft has sold 8.6 million boxes at retail

Gamasutra has received an interesting stat from the good folks at NPD: after hearing that The Sims 3 sold over 800,000 copies in its first month, they were curious to see what kind of unit sales our own World of Warcraft has experienced. And the numbers are pretty big: among the original game and all of the expansion packs since the vanilla release over four years ago, NPD says 8.6 million boxes of WoW have been sold in the US. That's a little misleading if you're comparing it to actual subscription numbers: remember that this is over three different releases (so the actual number of all-time players, not current players, is probably 1/3 of that), and it includes different collectors' editions of each of the three game editions. So there are nowhere near 8.6 million US players of WoW -- that's just how many times players have come through the retail line with the various releases.

What that is, however, is a lot of money. Gamasutra estimates that at an average of $30 for each unit sold (the vanilla game currently retails at $20, but the expansions all sell at $40, and of course the original game was more expensive once upon a time), that's $258 million in income for Blizzard. In short, Blizzard's making a mint at the retail counter, even before they sign anyone up for subscriptions.

Then again, if you look at their own costs, those aren't insubstantial, either -- Activision's Bobby Kotick claimed that anyone starting up an MMO to compete with WoW would have to throw at least half a billion dollars into the mix just to get started, so we can presume Blizzard has spent at least $500 million on their staff, development, and hardware. So it's not like they're taking it all to the bank, though we can at least presume they're sitting firmly in the black.

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Fan stuff, Blizzard, The Burning Crusade, Making money, Wrath of the Lich King

More on Black Arrow and Lock and Load

The Hunter's Mark examined what's going on behind the Hunter talent Lock and Load a little while ago, and last week Atkallen did a follow up post getting down into the nitty gritty of the numbers a little further. Essentially, he charges that you're looking at an LnL proc for about 2-4% uptime during a four hour raid -- that is, for about 4% of the time, you've got Lock and Load giving you free Explosive Shots with no cooldown and no mana cost. And as he says, that's the "applied" time -- since LnL disappears as you use it, odds are that the real time you have it available will be much less.

He also tracks that time from 3.1 to 3.1.2, and says he's found data that confirms his previous theory: that it was more than the tooltip that needed changing during the last patch. Before the patch, he was looking at 11% uptime during three Ulduar fights, and after the patch, that's dropped down to 6%. Blizzard said they were only changing the tooltip, but that doesn't seem to be the case.

Finally, he stands by a notion that a lot of our commenters debated last time: that LnL is proccing more after 3.1, even though the mechanics claim that it shouldn't be. I haven't had a lot of personal playtime with it post-patch, but there are two different conclusions to take away here. First: LnL, in conjunction with Black Arrow and Resourcefulness, is a definite force for DPS in the Survival spec no matter how often it's proccing. And second: there still may be something else going on here behind the scenes -- the removal of the cooldown is almost definitely a factor, and Blizzard may be playing around with the RNG more than they're letting on.

Filed under: Hunter, Analysis / Opinion, Odds and ends, Classes, Talents

WoW Ladies in the spotlight


Just a quick word of congrats tonight to our friends the moderators of the WoW Ladies Livejournal group -- their community has been spotlighted over on the Livejournal front page. Definitely some well-deserved recognition for one of the best sub-communities in World of Warcraft.

The mods over there are ready to deal with the exposure, too -- though you can see over in this thread that they're a little "dazzled" by all of the new traffic, they've (as usual) got things well in hand. They've created a series of "Master Posts" to keep overflow on the channel to a minimum, and as you can see from their main page, they're taking the growth right in stride, still showing all kinds of interesting viewpoints on the game from their various posters.

The WoW community is a gigantic one, but it's all of the little interrelated communities within it (from us here at WoW Insider to the theorycrafters on Elitist Jerks to all of the hundreds of WoW player blogs, each with their own little voice and insight) that really make it such a diverse and creative group. Good to see one of the best WoW communities out there spotlighted on a major mainstream site.

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

WoW subscriber numbers still increasing, multi-boxers trivial

There has been a long thread about WoW and the philosophical changes and approaches over the past four years, and in particular to some of the larger design decisions made recently (dual specs). In it Ghostcrawler makes an offhand remark about WoW's subscriber numbers:

"Wrath of the Lich King is still selling very well and our subscribers are increasing."

Now I want to be clear that this was made off-hand and is not from an official earnings statement. But that doesn't discount it from being full of truthiness; and nonetheless, this is rather significant in that it's been a while since we last heard any indication of current subscriber numbers. To some this news won't be very surprising, given that Wrath of the Lich King has been a huge hit. But others might raise an eyebrow that after five months of Wrath things are still up-ticking.

He also mentions the ever hot topic of multi-boxers:

Read more →

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, News items

Battle.net Mobile Authenticator hands-on

Last week, Blizzard released their very first piece of iPhone software, and it wasn't a mobile mailbox or an ingame chat client as some of us had hoped. Nope -- out of the blue (get it?), they introduced a replacement for the hardware version of the Authenticator, and they released it for free.

I've installed the software on my first-generation iPhone and have been using it for a little while now. And while it's not much more than barebones -- if you're expecting anything other than an application that periodically gives you numbers, you'll be disappointed -- it's definitely a worthwhile substitute to buying a dedicated Authenticator.

There's short walkthrough of the program after the break, and you can check out a few screens of the app below. It's available right now on the App Store for your iPhone or iPod touch.



Read more →

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

Blizzard LF numbers geek, pst

If your idea of fun in playing World of Warcraft is to mine the auction house or raid buffers for statistics and then turning them over every which way, then Blizzard may have a job that's of interest to you. Admittedly, the best candidate would also have a degree in "computer science, statistics, operations research, industrial engineering, and mathematics, or business administration, marketing, or management with strong quantitative focus" but we're sure there are some WoW Insider readers who fit their Data Analyst posting bill.

Sure, it may not be the most glamorous position ever offered, but it's still working for Blizzard - and in this case, working away from the front lines. Think of the perks; the awesomeness of being able to get in on Blizzard games well before anyone else gets to; the cool gifts that Blizz seems to like to give employees; the ability to get in to BlizzCon without having to play tag with the mrglrfrling Failoc. All that, and hey - it's translating numbers to non-number-geek English, which seems to be a passion amongst many of the numbers geeks I know. So if you've got the chops and are looking for a job many would envy you for, what are you waiting for? Get to applying - and good luck!

[Via Virtual Economy Research Network]

Filed under: Blizzard, News items, Economy

Majority of player base does not have a level 80 character

Vaneras on the EU forums this morning responded to some criticism that everyone is already 80, etc... He makes a few interesting points.

First, he notes that they have internal numbers that the majority of players don't yet have a level 80 character. This might be a known or assumed fact by some, but for many of us it's interesting to hear Blizzard extrapolate on the issue.

Vaneras goes on to point out an important tidbit – don't assume just because all your friends are 80 that everyone else is as well. People that play all the time tend to gravitate towards other people that play all the time, and folks that only log on once or twice a week gravitate towards each other as well.

This means that just because everyone on your friends list is 80 doesn't mean the whole server is yet. I know that for myself nearly everyone's main is either 80 or high 70s now, and most have alts quickly getting up there in level too.

But then I'm reminded of my brother, who just dinged 77 a couple days ago.

This is also good to know as it means battlegrounds and Wintergrasp will be filling up more as a greater number of folks ding. That's only going to lead to more fun for everyone.

Filed under: News items, Leveling

Morhaime: "We'd like to be doing regular expansions"


MTV's Multiplayer blog has an interview with Blizzard CEO Mike Morhaime (who is apparently sitting pretty with the elven ladies after last week's big expansion launch). He says that he sees no end to the expansions -- Blizzard has told us before that as long as they have ideas (and players), they'll keep making content for this game. He also says that they're happy with the subscription model in the United States -- although we'd imagine that both of those things might get rethought if Blizzard's subscription numbers were going the other way. For now, though, while things are headed up, Morhaime sounds pretty happy with the way things are.

Finally, they ask about an iPhone app, and Morhaime says Blizzard is working on connecting mobile devices up to the game, but he also specifically says they're not looking at a stand-alone app. So maybe a mobile version of the Armory? I'd love to see an iPhone app, as we've said before, with mail or auction house functionality, but maybe Blizzard doesn't see the majority of their audience on the iPhone anyway. Then again, their Mac guys always need something to do...

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Odds and ends, Blizzard, Expansions, Wrath of the Lich King

Analyst: Wrath will sell five million copies

Here's our first analysis of Wrath sales (actually second, if you count Mike Morhaime's take on the subject): someone thinks it's going to sell big. Gamasutra reports that Mike Hickey of Janco Partners is predicting sales of five million copies for Wrath's first month in stores, which would basically make it the most popular expansion pack of all time. Burning Crusade, a pack that just barely beat out The Sims, sold 2.4 million copies in the first 24 hours, and 3.5 million within the first month, and so Hickey is looking at a little less than double that for the Northrend expansion.

Huge numbers indeed, and yet they don't seem that surprising -- WoW's population has grown since Burning Crusade was released for sure, and while pretty much everyone agrees that not all players will be buying the expansion right away (our own informal poll has about 13% of our readers waiting, not to mention all of the players in other markets around the world), but if even 1/4 of WoW's 11 million players decide to pick up the game on launch, we're still looking at 2.75 million copies, more than BC.

No matter what, Blizzard will make a lot of money, and very likely break all records anyway next week. Wrath of the Lich King will be huge.

[via BigDownload]

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Blizzard, Expansions, Making money, Wrath of the Lich King

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