Blizzard has revealed that the number of people subscribing to its massively multiplayer game World of Warcraft has declined since prior to the launch of the Cataclysm expansion.
In yesterday’s Activision-Blizzard conference call with investors, Blizzard CEO and co-founder Mike Morhaime announced that, “We finished the quarter [in March] with more than 11.4 million subscribers worldwide.”
In October last year, Blizzard tallied active subscriptions at more than 12 million.
World of Warcraft: Cataclysm was released in December.
Morhaime believes that the game’s playerbase is now “much better and much faster at consuming content.” He explained, “So what we have seen so far is that people have been consuming this [Cataclysm] content very quickly and so the subscriber levels have decreased faster than in previous expansions.”
“But that's why we're working on developing more content.” Additionally, Morhaime revealed that the company intends to decrease the time between the expansions.
The game’s subscriber numbers have never been consistent, says the CEO. “It's been driven by new content and seasonality throughout the course of World of Warcraft's history.”
Morhaime went on to address the spectre of growing competition in the wake of a declining playerbase, namely BioWare’s upcoming Star Wars: The Old Republic. Many industry spectators see EA’s sci-fi MMO as the first real challenge to World of Warcraft’s supremacy.
“In terms of additional competition, we knew that this year was going to be a year where we faced new competitors," said Morhaime. "It isn't the first time, though, that we have had strong competitors enter the MMO market.
"What we have seen in the past is, we tend to see our players leave for some period of time, perhaps try out the new MMOs, and then good percentage of them historically have returned to World of Warcraft.
"And so far," Morhaime concluded, "I haven't seen anything to indicate that this will be different."