‘World of Warcraft’ Wows 8 Million Subscribers

In a testimony to the subscription-based video game model, Blizzard Entertainment on Thursday announced that “World of Warcraft,” its massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG), has reached the 8 million subscriber mark.

“World of Warcraft” has also achieved new regional subscriber milestones, with more than 2 million players in North America, more than 1.5 million players in Europe and more than 3.5 million players in China, according to the company.

“We’re ecstatic that the ‘World of Warcraft’ community has continued to grow steadily since we launched the game,” said Mike Morhaime, president and cofounder of Blizzard Entertainment. “With the release of our expansion pack, ‘World of Warcraft: The Burning Crusade,’ coming next week, we’re looking forward to welcoming more players to Azeroth and offering even more quality content for our community to enjoy.”

A Burning Popularity

Since debuting in North America in November 2004, “World of Warcraft” has become the most popular MMORPG in the world. The franchise is available in seven different languages and is played in North America, Europe, mainland China, Korea, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, and the regions of Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau.

The premise is warfare: Several years have passed since the Burning Legion’s defeat at Mount Hyjal, and the races of Azeroth have continued to rebuild their once-shattered lives.

With renewed strength, the heroes of the Horde and Alliance have begun to explore new lands and broken through the Dark Portal to investigate the realms beyond the known world.

Players navigate the game and face friends, foes, dangers and rewards as they discover that the demons they thought were vanquished have returned to renew their terrible Burning Crusade — and the battle is on.

Expanding the Franchise

“World of Warcraft” will launch of its first expansion, “World of Warcraft: The Burning Crusade,” next week. “The Burning Crusade” will add new content to the game, including an entire new continent to explore and an increase in the level cap up to 70. It will include new playable races and new quests; new talents, abilities and professions; new dungeons; and new creatures, including flying mounts.

Continued subscriber growth will be important to Blizzard Entertainment’s success, but even if the company maintains its 8 million members going forward it is a huge accomplishment, according to Parks Associates senior analyst Michael Cai.

“Even if you just keep a subscriber for a year, imagine how much money you are making from that single subscriber. There will probably be subscribers from 2004 who drop out, but in the meantime ‘World of Warcraft’ is attracting new subscribers,” Cai told TechNewsWorld.

The Subscription Model

There’s one caveat on the revenue numbers: While the Western world pays about US$15 a month for a subscription, nearly half of “World of Warcraft’s” members are in China and pay only about $5 a month. Still, the revenue generation opportunities with the subscription model are turning heads, Cai said.

“A lot of companies, even if they are not in the gaming industry today, are looking at the success of ‘World of Warcraft’ and wondering what they can do to benefit from the growing appetite for different types of media,” Cai noted. “They are considering what they can draw from the fact that ‘World of Warcraft’ was so successful with its subscription service rather than relying on retail.”

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