Blizzard ready to talk numbers again, World of Warcraft tops 12 million subscribers

Blizzard Entertainment has just announced that World of Warcraft’s subscriber base has reached an all time high with a standing army of over 12 million players. Does it seem like it’s been a while since you’ve read news about how many millions of people play WoW? That’s because Blizzard hasn’t sent out a press release about their subscriber base since November 21, 2008, when it was announced that 11.5 million players subscribe to WoW. Just one month before that, Blizzard announced that they had surpassed 11 million subscribers on October 28, 2008.

So, why has it been almost two years since we’ve heard about WoW’s subscriber base? According to Blizzard, “This milestone was reached in the wake of the mainland Chinese launch of World of Warcraft’s second expansion, Wrath of the Lich King, and also as global anticipation continues to mount for the December 7 release of the game’s third expansion, Cataclysm.”

Although the Wrath of the Lich King expansion released in November of 2008, the game’s launch in China was delayed due to censorship issues until August of this year. Technical complications that followed Blizzard’s decision to transfer from The9 as the operator for WoW in China to NetEase also led to the game being down for about three weeks in 2009.

Above: Censorship and technical issues threw a wrench in Blizzard's plans, delaying WotLK's release in China and causing a lengthy downtime when service was unavailable

These factors could explain why we haven’t seen the numbers reports we’ve come to expect from Blizzard – and why it took nearly 2 years to reach the 12 million subscriber milestone we’re hearing about today. But now that complications with the game running in China appear to be settled and Cataclysm scheduled to launch this December, we wouldn’t be surprised to see another strong increase in WoW’s subscriber base this winter.

In case you’re wondering, here’s how Blizzard defines a World of Warcraft subscriber when counting the numbers:

World of Warcraft subscribers include individuals who have paid a subscription fee or have an active prepaid card to play World of Warcraft, as well as those who have purchased the game and are within their free month of access. Internet Game Room players who have accessed the game over the last thirty days are also counted as subscribers. The above definition excludes all players under free promotional subscriptions, expired or cancelled subscriptions, and expired prepaid cards. Subscribers in licensees’ territories are defined along the same rules.

Oct 7, 2010