While MMORPG players are rapidly adopting free-to-play games like DC Universe Online, the World of Warcraft subscriber base is continuing to bleed players.
Reported during a recent Activision Blizzard conference call, the subscriber base of the MMORPG World of Warcraft fell by another 800,000 players over a three month period. This constitutes a much larger decline than the lost 300,000 players that quit the game during the second quarter. The total user base now stands at approximately 10.3 million subscriptions, a large drop from a peak of about 12 million players during October 2010. Activision Blizzard attributes the decline to canceled subscriptions in Asian countries rather than North American players quitting the game. The company also hopes that the upcoming Mists Of Pandaria expansion pack will help bring veteran players back to the game as well as encourage new subscribers to sign up.
While the ongoing success of Modern Warfare 3 is certain to keep investors in Activision Blizzard happy with the company, after hours trading of the stock is down by about three percent following the World of Warcraft news. During the fourth quarter, the World of Warcraft player base faces a possible increase in defections to games like DC Universe Online that have been made free-to-play as well as new MMORPGs like Star Wars The Old Republic when it launches in December. Beyond the planned panda-themed expansion for World of Warcraft, company officials are looking into speeding up the development time between expansion packs to keep players interested in the game.
After going free-to-play, Sony Online Entertainment’s DC universe Online has skyrocketed by 1,000 percent. The player base that previous had about 30,000 players has grown to over 300,000. However, new players have been faced with long queues to access the game as Sony merged 26 servers down to a single server during August 2011. While certain restrictions limit players that want to play the game for free, players that continue to pay for the service get all all DLC packs for free as well as a larger number of inventory and character slots.