It seems that most often when a massively multiplayer online role-playing game makes headlines, the news is bad. Last week, Turbine Entertainment announced that Asheron's Call 2 was being taken offline. Last month, Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment sold off The Matrix Online to Sony Online Entertainment following lackluster sales. (SOE has since cut the number of servers supporting the game by two-thirds.)
However, for one MMORPG, World of Warcraft, the news is good. Very good. Today, the company's developer and publisher, VU Games-owned Blizzard Entertainment, announced that the best-selling fantasy game has reached even greater heights of popularity. According to the company, there are now 4 million "paying customers" that log on to the MMORPG worldwide--with 1 million logging on in the US and Canada alone.
But just what are "paying customers"? Blizzard defines the term as being someone who has "paid a subscription fee or purchased a prepaid card to play World of Warcraft," or someone who "has purchased the installation box bundled with one free month [of] access." The company also counted "Internet Game Room players [who have] accessed the game over the last seven days" as paying customers.
Blizzard has not been shy about trumpeting World of Warcraft's runaway success and today claimed it was "the largest MMORPG in the world." In a statement, Mike Morhaime, Blizzard's cofounder and president, thanked his company's collaborators. "With the continued support of our retail partners, World of Warcraft has reached more than 1 million paying customers in North America well before its one-year anniversary in November," he said. "We would like to express our appreciation to both the players and our retail and license partners for helping us make World of Warcraft one of the most popular online games in the world."