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World of Warcraft subscriptions on the rise, ended 2013 at 7.8 million

Blizzard's MMO adds 200,000 subscribers in three months to end 2013 with 7.8 million members.

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Blizzard Entertainment's MMORPG World of Warcraft ended 2013 with 7.8 million paying members, which is up from the 7.6 million figure announced in November. That's right, more than 9 years after release, the game is actually continuing to grow.

Of course, 7.8 million is down from a milestone of more than 12 million subscribers achieved in 2010 following the release of the Wrath of the Lich King expansion. All the same, it's impressive that the game has been able to not only stem subscriber attrition, but actually grow this late in a product lifecycle.

World of Warcraft's fifth expansion, Warlords of Draenor, was announced during BlizzCon in November and is expected to launch later this year. The subscriber numbers were announced as part of Activision Blizzard's latest earnings report today detailing fourth-quarter and full-year sales.

Other highlights from the earnings announcement today included Activision Blizzard revealing that Call of Duty: Ghosts was the best-selling title in terms of units and dollars during the quarter ended December 31. It was also the best-selling game on both the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 in terms of units and dollars, Activision Blizzard said.

As of December 31, the Skylanders franchise has generated more than $2 billion in worldwide sales, Activision Blizzard said. The company has sold around 175 million Skylanders toys worldwide, according to internal estimates.

For the year ended December 31, Activision Blizzard posted revenue of $4.34 billion, down from $4.99 billion in 2012. Digital net revenue was $1.57 billion for year and made up 36 percent of total. For the quarter also ended December 31, revenue was $2.27 billion, compared to $2.60 billion last year.

Looking ahead to 2014, Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick said it is looking forward to launching titles like Bungie's Destiny and new entries in the Call of Duty and Skylanders franchises, as well as Diablo III expansion Reaper of Souls on March 25. Also in 2014, Activision Blizzard will release three free-to-play games: Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft, Heroes of the Storm, and Call of Duty Online. Kotick said these games have "great global potential."

"Free-to-play as a business model has now achieved scale, both in the West and in China. Hearthstone, which released in open beta on PC last month and which Blizzard Entertainment plans to expand this year to tablets and smartphones, is already attracting millions of players with strong engagement and monetization in the West and China, putting it on track to join World of Warcraft, Diablo, and StarCraft as their fourth mega franchise."

Activision is currently holding a call to discuss these results and answer questions. Check back soon for more.

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