It has been over five years since Blizzard Entertainment’s massively multiplayer online role-playing game World of Warcraft hit shelves, but the hugely popular title’s in-game population continues to bulge.
Blizzard Entertainment today announced that the World of Warcraft subscriber base has passed the 12 million mark, which is good for the highest tally Blizzard has ever officially announced.
Blizzard said the milestone was reached following the mainland Chinese release of World of Warcraft’s second expansion pack, Wrath of the Lich King. The content expansion arrived in that nation on August 31.
Growth in the MMORPG has been largely static as of late, however. In 2005, the subscriber base was 5 million strong; in January 2007, Blizzard reported a subscriber base of 8 million; in July 2007, the number jumped to 9 million; in January 2008, the figure climbed to 10 million; later that year, the figure hit 11 million. Finally, the most recent virtual census Blizzard took was in December of 2008, when it reported the game boasted 11.5 million subscribers.
Looking ahead, World of Warcraft's third expansion, Cataclysm, is currently in beta and is due out on the PC and Mac on December 7. Cataclysm will follow 2007's Burning Crusade and 2008's Wrath of the Lich King. It will be available in a $40 standard edition and an $80 collector’s version.
The Warcraft franchise will have been around for just over 16 years when Cataclysm reaches eager gamers in December. Talking to GameSpot around the time of the franchise's 15th birthday, Blizzard lead designer Jeff Kaplan said, "I honestly believe that there are enough compelling ideas to keep WOW going for as long as the Internet is up".