World of Warcraft subs fall to 8.3 million

Subscriber base for aging MMO dips 1.3 million in three months; Activision Blizzard posts $456 million profit on $1.32 billion in revenue for Q1.

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Gamers are continuing to exit Azeroth. Activision Blizzard announced today that as of March 31, World of Warcraft has 8.3 million subscribers, down from 9.6 million at the end of 2012.

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According to Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick, World of Warcraft subscriber declines were mainly from the East, but the Western market also made an impact, he said in a statement. He further explained that subscriber figures are expected to fall throughout the year.

Despite the subscriber attrition, World of Warcraft remains the number one subscription-based massively multiplayer online role-playing game, according to Activision.

By comparison, Electronic Arts' Star Wars: The Old Republic has fewer than 500,000 subscribers as of March 31.

The news comes as part of Activision Blizzard's first quarter earnings report, which saw the publisher post $456 million in profit on $1.32 billion in revenue for the three-month period ended March 31.

Kotick said that though the year has gotten off to a solid start, there is reason to be skeptical about Activision Blizzard's prospects for the second half of the year.

"While we have had a solid start to the year, we now believe that the risks and uncertainties in the back half of 2013 are more challenging than our earlier view, especially in the holiday quarter," Kotick said in prepared remarks. "The shift in release dates of competing products, the disappointing launch of the Wii U, uncertainties regarding next-generation hardware, and subscriber declines in our World of Warcraft business all raise concerns, as do continued challenges in the global economy."

These issues are cause for concern, Kotick said. However, he also acknowledged that Activision Blizzard will be able to deliver shareholder value by employing the same tactics that has made the company one of the industry's biggest publishers for the past 20 years.

"For these reasons, we remain cautious," he said. "However, our focused and disciplined approach to our business has served us well in the past, and through continued investment and careful management of our costs, we expect to continue delivering shareholder value over the long term as we have for the last 20 years.”

Activision is currently holding a post-earnings financial call.

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