Publisher Blizzard Entertainment canceled its next massively multiplayer online game earlier this year, and the company says it might not make another one. And World of Warcraft’s recent performance is making that look like a smart move.
Blizzard’s fantasy MMO saw a huge jump in its subscriber number over the last six months. The game now boasts 7.4 million paying members. That is 600,000 more people actively spending $15 a month to play World of Warcraft than last quarter’s 6.8 million subscribers. Fans of World of Warcraft are likely returning to game in anticipation of the Warlords of Draenor expansion that is due out in Nov. 13.
Players are excited for the higher level cap and new areas, and Blizzard just patched the MMO with new stuff to prepare for the add-on content. So while it’s not unusual for World of Warcraft to get a boost in subscribers in the lead up to an expansion, Wedbush Morgan analyst Michael Pachter notes that the timing in this case is interesting.
“The increase in subscribers occurred one quarter earlier than we had expected given that Warlords of Draenor launches in the middle of Q4,” Pachter wrote in a note to investors. “We expect positive World of Warcraft subscriber momentum to continue through Q4 driven by the launch of [the expansion].”
While Warlords of Draenor is likely the biggest reason most players are returning to World of Warcraft, Blizzard is also trying to offer incentives and deals to those who do come back. For example, everyone who subscribes or reactivates their account automatically gets all of World of Warcraft’s previous expansions. That deal is likely encouraging many people to come back.
“We expect the combined increase in subscribers in Q3 and Q4 of 2014 to exceed the 0.9 million increase that Blizzard saw in Q3 2012,” said Pachter. “That means that total subscribers should be at least 7.7 million by year-end, well above our current estimate of 6.9 million.”
World of Warcraft is easily one of the most lucrative releases in gaming history, which is one of the reasons that everyone was waiting to see Blizzard’s followup. But the company cancelled Titan, and it now seems determined to just continue supporting World of Warcraft and its dedicated audience for the foreseeable future.