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As of January 30, World of Warcraft had dipped to 11.1 million active users, 300,000 fewer than the 11.4 million they had in May, and almost a million down from their all-time peak of 12 million last October. Blizzard says it isn't worried about losing nearly a million users in less than a year because it's part of natural cycle that accompanies the release of new material.
In a conference call with Activision Blizzard investors Blizzard president Michael Morhaime said that the second quarter of consecutive decline is to be expected after the release of a major expansion like December's Cataclysm by saying "subscribership tends to be seasonal and driven by content updates.” What he meant is that after experienced users tear through new content they start to get bored and may stop playing the game.
Morhaime also said that cycle is natural, but admitted that the loss of players is becoming more extreme, adding "I think with Cataclysm they were able to consume the content faster than with previous expansions, but that's why we're working on developing more content."
To counter this decline, Blizzard switched to a free-to-play model for characters below level 20 in late June and the company is ramping up for a “major new raid and dungeon" by the year's end. Morhaime is probably not referring to the rumored panda-centric expansion, and instead means WoW players should expect major updates in the next Cataclysm patch.
Aug 5, 2011
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