World of Warcraft will receive content more frequently to help stem the decline of players and combat the rise of free-to-play games, Activision and Blizzard have said.
Last night it was revealed that the subscription-based MMO lost 1.3 million players over the last three months, pointing to the decline of interest in the game from the East. World of Warcraft now has approximately 8.3 million subscribers.
Speaking to investors during Activision's Q1 2013 conference call, CEO Bobby Kotick spoke of a need to address the changing online market, but emphasised that Activision will continue to invest in the long-running subscription MMO.
"It's important to note that the nature of online games has changed, and with the environment becoming far more competitive, especially with free-to-play games," said Kotick (via Seeking Alpha). "To address this, we're working to release new content more frequently to keep our players engaged longer and make it easier for lapsed players to come back into the game. We believe in the long-term value of this franchise and will continue to commit substantial resources to World of Warcraft."
Since its launch in 2004, World of Warcraft has seen numerous updates, as well as four fully-fledged expansion packs: The Burning Crusade in 2007, Wrath of the Lich King in 2008, Cataclysm in 2010, and Mists of Pandaria in 2012.
"We're examining ways we can ease the transition back into the game for returning players," added Blizzard CEO Mike Morhaime. "We've always seen players come and go from World of Warcraft. Smoothing out that transitional period is something we're studying, as we adjust our approach to player behavior and preferences."
Kotick says that the publisher expects further subscriber declines to World of Warcraft before the end of the year, but points to the game's continuing success. "While we do believe further declines are likely and we expect to have fewer subscribers at year end than we do today, World of Warcraft remains one of the most successful franchises in the history of entertainment," he said.
Blizzard is currently working on bringing Diablo III to PlayStation 3 and PlayStation 4, its MOBA Blizzard All-Stars, as well as free-to-play card battler Hearthstone.
"There's still more in the pipeline with our teams continuing to work on Blizzard All-Stars and our unannounced MMO," added Morhaime.