WoW Loses Subscribers, Reports Spread FUD

Brad Chacos

While Everquest and Ultima Online helped define MMORPGs, World of Warcraft is the game that most people think of when the genre is mentioned. But could its heyday in the sun be coming to a close after all these years? A Reuters report released late last night would have you believe so: its headline trumpeted “World of Warcraft loses steam” and the article went on to describe how Wall Street investors kicked Activision Blizzard after it said that the game lost almost 1 million subscribers in the past quarter. We actually read the report, though, and we’re calling it nothing but FUD.

First, the elephant in the room: yes, Blizzard admitted that its WoW subscriber base dropped from 11.1 million to 10.3 million over the past quarter. Since October of last year, it’s lost nearly 2 million players total . That’s a big drop, sure, but let’s keep things in perspective: WoW has been around practically forever, and the 12 million users subscribing in October of last year was the largest subscriber base in WoW’s history. There’s a good chance that the current subscription base is simply evening out once again, rather than flat-out freefalling – and even at 10.3 million subscribers, no other MMO can come close to WoW’s user base.

Second, WoW isn't exactly a dry well: it made over $1 billion in revenues from WoW last year, by Reuters’ own admission. Since then, about one sixth of its user base has split. What’s five-sixths of a billion? We’re not sure (math was never our strong point), but by our rudimentary finger-counting, Blizzard can still look forward to pockets stuffed with cash this year, too.

Third, we find the wonky number tricks Reuters used in its article to be a bit disingenuous. From the article:

Activision Blizzard shares had gained initially after its improved earnings outlook, but reversed to fall more than 3 percent in after-hours trading. Its shares touched a 52-week high during the regular session on Tuesday.

So, while Reuters’ sub-headline screamed that investors had wiped out 3 percent of Blizzard’s share price after hearing the WoW news, that’s only kinda true: as you just read, Blizzard’s stock hit its yearly high earlier this week, and three percent off your best mark is still pretty friggin’ good.

Oh, and while we’re at it, wouldn’t “Activision Blizzard Raises Earnings Estimates 10 Percent” have been just as truthful and much more accurate of a headline? Just sayin’.

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