Blizzard explain why World of Warcraft updates have become bite-sized and more frequent as subs decline


Blizzard have seen an “evolution in player behaviour” since the release of WoW’s third expansion, Cataclysm, two years ago. The Darwinian change has been such that the company has adapted its strategy of late to release smaller WoW updates more frequently. Find out why after the break.

Activision have been placating their money men via phone overnight, and Blizzard head Mike Morhaime was rolled out for the occasion. He told investors that WoW players now burn through new updates in record time, and disappear off the horizon for fresher climes until the next patch hits.

“We have seen an evolution in player behaviour since the launch of Cataclysm,” he explained. “Players consume content quickly – they’re more apt to come and go from the community, which is why we are targeting more frequent updates.”

Morhaime said that, in keeping with the new system, the game’s next major update is already in testing and should reach players “in the coming weeks”.

“The development team continues to stick with the plan of more frequent content updates in the wake of the expansion launch, applying lessons that we have learned from past expansions,” he said.

The explanation accompanied the announcement of a slight decline in WoW subscriber numbers in the last months of 2012, down to a player base of just over 9.6 million. The majority of the decline came from China, while subscribership in the West was “relatively more stable”.

In response to a question about subscriber numbers, Morhaime added: “I think another thing to note is, if you compare the month following Cataclysm and the month following Mists of Pandaria, the trailing months have been stronger with Mists and have seen an increase in engagement in all regions.

“We’ve always had competition for World of Warcraft in all markets. I think it’s fair to say that competition has increased, but I think it’s also important to point out that World of Warcraft is competing against all forms of entertainment for leisure time, and so that just underscores the need for us to continue creating new content to keep up engagement. With respect to China, despite the decline in subscribership it’s important to note that the engagement levels of the core audience did increase with the launch of the expansion.”

Time for a bit of self-analysis. Do you find yourself returning to WoW more often now updates are speedier?