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Half a million World of Warcraft players lost

While all the attention was on Diablo 3 and CoD news last night during the Activision/Blizzard conference call, the latest World of Warcraft figures were also revealed.
It’s been pretty obvious that there’s been some unrest in the WoW player ranks following the release of Cataclysm. The constant hotfixing of the game for the first few months of this year and lack of new content have been the game’s main problems. It therefore comes as no huge surprise that the player base has dropped from 12 million down to 11.4 million players. These are latest subscriber numbers which were revealed by Blizzard CEO Mike Morhaime last night.
“Looking at the World of Warcraft side of the business we were pleased to see record sales following the Cataclysm launch in the United States and Europe which helps drive growth in Subscribership.  During the first quarter of 2011 as players have eagerly consumed the new content we have seen subscribership return to pre-launch levels in the west.  We finished the quarter with more than 11.4 million subscribers worldwide.”
As Mike pointed out in his comments on the call, players have raced through the extra content that Cataclysm provided which also prompted him to mention that Blizzard are looking to push out expansions quicker. 
Mike also acknowledged that this year was going to be harder for WoW with competition such as RIFT which released in March and Star Wars: The Old Republic which was expected in September but may still slip. He also reiterated that players tend to leave the game on the release of new titles but they do come back. This does happen but as we have seen with RIFT, there are plenty of players who will not return to WoW.
For most MMOs, the loss of this many players could be catastrophic, but with such a large pool of players, Blizzard can quite easily take the hit. The Cataclysm expansion has also still to launch in China which will no doubt boost figures as players come back to the game in that region.
We also can’t forget that Blizzard have their unannounced MMO in the works and that will surely pick up players at a later date that may have left WoW for a time, even if that is in a few years when the new game is eventuially announced then released. 

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