The headline news for the Blizzard bit of Activision’s earnings call last night was that World of Warcraft subscriber numbers are still declining, and appear to be picking up speed. That’s a disconcerting thought for Azeroth’s inhabitants, who can see Blizzard pumping cash into what they hope will be new floats for the company to bob along on once WoW is fully deflated - Hearthstone and Heroes of the Storm.
But Blizzard haven’t begun the long, finickety process of pulling out of WoW just yet. Indeed, they’ve upped its budget to ensure that “it can continue having a long and happy life”.
Revenues and income for the company were unsurprisingly lower the during same period last year, when Mists of Pandaria launched. But Bobby Kotick made reference to imminent “significant and exciting new content for World of Warcraft” in his opening remarks - surely pointing to the Warlords of Draenor expansion we expect to see announced at BlizzCon this weekend.
Beyond another expansion, there are regular future updates to look forward to. Expect them to follow the pattern of this September’s meaty Siege of Orgrimmar patch, which Blizzard CEO Mike Morhaime hailed as a success.
Morhaime pointed to the “huge array” of new dungeons and “major” story drive that heralded Orgrimmar, as well as new accessibility features and the fact that groups of varying sizes can now take part in endgame raids.
“We’ve very pleased with the response to Siege of Orgrimmar, the massive content update we released in September,” he said.
“Player response to the content has been good, and we saw increased engagement that has contributed to maintaining relatively stable suberscribership quarter-over-quarter. We’ll continue to invest heavily in World of Warcraft to deliver frequent, high quality content to our players.”
In fact, the only cost-cutting measures apparent as WoW’s subscriber base shrinks are in customer service, where Morhaime says there are “a lot of efforts going towards improving customer self-help, so that our millions of players don’t actually have to contact us directly”.
“The way we’re viewing customer service for WoW, of course we want to maintain a high quality of customer service to our players, but I think we want to continue to look at more efficient and better ways of doing that,” he said.
By and large, that’s fairly reassuring. Wouldn’t you say?