Wednesday evening during Activision Blizzard's Q2 2011 earnings call (opens in new tab), Blizzard CEO Mike Morhaime admitted that the number of active subscriptions fell again for Q2 2011, the second decline in a row. As of June 30, the popular MMORPG was still riding high with 11.1 million active subscribers worldwide, but the number actually dropped from 11.4 million as recorded at the end of March. Blizzard saw around 12 million active subscriptions during October 2010, notably due to the impending December 2010 release of the Cataclysm expansion pack.
Last quarter, Morhaime blamed the subscription drop on Cataclysm. Specifically, the decline was due to players canceling their subscriptions after quickly consuming the expansion's content. To combat this, the company decided it would be best to have more frequent content releases rather than one huge content explosion every few years. But as for this latest drop in subscriptions, he included the word "seasonal" along with a similar content consumption explanation.
"In terms of subscriber growth around the world, what I would say is what we have seen is that subscribership [sic] tends to be seasonal and driven by content updates," he explained. "As we are heading further away from an expansion launch, it's normal to seasoned declines."
He then added that the team is currently working on its largest content update since Cataclysm, and is scheduled to go live later this year. "The next content update... will include major new raid and dungeon content," he said. "We believe that this new end-game content will keep the game fresh for current players and provide compelling reasons for lapsed players to come back."
Eurogamer points out that Blizzard just registered a trademark protecting the name "Mists of Pandaria." Given that Blizzard named patch v4.2 as "Rage of the Firelands," the title could merely be another update... but it could also be the title of the next "major" release as revealed in Wednesday's call.
But despite the loss in numbers, Morhaime added that the launch of Cataclysm over in China and the upcoming launch of a Portuguese World of Warcraft client in Brazil later this year should help beef up the player base. Blizzard already saw "great success" in launching the MMORPG over in Russia. "There are other countries we're looking at beyond that as well but I don't have anything that I can talk about," he said.
Morhaime also pointed out that the 20-level "trial" has reeled in a significant number of new accounts, but didn't elaborate on whether they actually led to paid subscriptions, instead saying that it as too early to tell "on conversions to subscriptionship."
"Aside from promoting World of Warcraft in other regions, we're taking other steps to bring more players into the community," he added. "With the new World of Warcraft Starter Edition, players are now able to play the game for free until level 20 with no time restrictions. Since the launch of this program, we've seen a significant increase in new account creations, which we hope will allow us to continue attracting new players."