Blizzard Entertainment announced that World of Warcraft
has reached more than 12 million subscribers around the world almost six years after the massively multiplayer online RPG's launch.
The popular online title reached this milestone shortly after the launch of its Wrath of the Lich King
expansion in mainland China (following a number of issues
with local government regulators), and two months before the European and North American release of its Cataclysm
Brokerage firm Sterne Agee & Leach estimates that World of Warcraft
's subscription base is evenly split between China and the West (North America/Europe), and says this audience bump is confirmation that the title remains popular in China despite the recent launch of competing products.
World of Warcraft
's releases have consistently become the bestselling games during their launch years: the original World of Warcraft
outsold all other PC games in 2005 and 2006, The Burning Crusade
did the same in 2007, and Wrath of the Lich King
was the bestselling game in 2008.
Sterne Agee & Leach expects Cataclysm
-- which revamps many of the game's existing areas while adding new playable races, zones, dungeons, and other content -- to sell around 3.5 million to 4 million units in the calendar year after the expansion ships to stores on December 7th.
Lazard Capital Markets analyst Colin Sebastian adds that StarCraft II
's launch in July hasn't impacted World of Warcraft
's user count negatively, and says content refreshes like the game's regular expansions are "key to long-term stability."
"Typically, expansion packs reduce churn and also re-engage inactive users, which we believe are the primary drivers of higher user metrics," says Sebastian. "We believe that WoW
should continue to benefit over the coming years from expansion packs and further international penetration."
The subscription-based title is currently available in eight different languages and is played in North America, Europe, mainland China, Korea, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, Chile, Argentina, and the regions of Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Macau.
Though World of Warcraft
is the most popular subscription-based MMORPG, its audience's expansion has slowed in the past two years. Blizzard last reported reaching the 11.5 million subscribers mark
in December 2008.
The publisher defines subscribers as individuals who have paid a subscription fee, have an active prepaid card to play World of Warcraft
, have purchased the game and are within their free month of access, and have accessed the game in the last thirty days from an "internet game room".
"The support and enthusiasm that gamers across the world continue to show for World of Warcraft
reaffirms our belief that it offers one of the best entertainment values available today," says Blizzard CEO Mike Morhaime. "We are as committed as ever to taking the game to new heights, and we look forward to demonstrating that with Cataclysm
Analyst comments added].