In June, Blizzard Entertainment will release “Warcraft: The Beginning,” a movie based on World of Warcraft (WoW), a massively multiplayer online role-playing game, and the developer is hoping it will attract a new wave of subscribers to the popular game, reports Master Herald.
In fact, to build up excitement for the movie and the game, Blizzard Entertainment is considering giving away WoW expansions with the Ultimate Movie Edition. PC Games N reports that Blizzard sent a survey to players, asking for their opinions on a package offered to movie goers that includes all game expansions to date, a month of free game time, and a unique in-game item. It is not clear if the game itself will be offered, but it seems like it must be for the expansions, etc. to be of any value.
According to Master Herald, Brian Holinka, the game designer for Blizzard Entertainment, said the movie will broaden WoW’s exposure to new audiences which might attract them to the game and to WoW’s next expansion pack, Legion, set to be released during the third quarter of 2016. Holinka also said that the company’s focus will remain on the game and the quality of the gameplay experience.
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As of last November, WoW had 5.5 million subscribers, a 10-year low, according to International Business Times (IBT). The game hit a peak of 12 million subscribers in late 2010 and early 2011. IBT says the decline has been steady, with the exception of occasional spikes when expansions like Mists of Panderia (2012) and Warlords of Draenor (2014) were released.
Despite the decline in WoW subscriptions, Blizzard’s financials are strong. Yesterday Activision Blizzard, Inc. (NASDAQ: ATVI) reported net income for 2015 of $892 million, a 6.8% increase over 2014. They also reported record digital revenue in the fourth quarter and for the full year, a 25% year-over-year increase in monthly active users for WoW and their other games – Call of Duty, Hearthstone®, Skylanders, Heroes of Warcraft, Guitar Hero®, etc. Blizzard, who is in the process of acquiring King Acquisition, will have more than a half billion monthly active users upon the close of the sale.
Blizzard’s financials and current and recent acquisitions show that it is well positioned to weather even a solid dip in subscriptions. Though it may have seen subscriptions for WoW drop by more than half, the company has a number of other successful products on which to lean.
We agree that the Warcraft movie will, indeed, attract new, perhaps younger, audiences. According to Statista, the game’s largest audience falls between the ages of 20 and 25 (37%), followed by 25 to 30 year olds (18%) and 16 to 20 year olds (29%). The acquisition cost of new subscribers though is huge with a $100 million film budget, according to Time, not to mention the marketing budget that will be needed to provide interested moviegoers with a game package attractive enough to entice them to play the game. The film had better be spectacular and do well to make the investment worthwhile.
One thing we hope Blizzard will consider is how it will appease existing players of WoW with this special deal to new users. Will they feel slighted that new users get a package of goodies for free, when they have been faithful subscribers for much longer? Perhaps Blizzard could offer them a free month of game time, a discount on the purchase of the Legion expansion package, free movie tickets, an exclusive in-game item or some other incentive to thank them for their continued loyalty. A little something special for current subscribers could go a long way to retaining them until the next shiny, new game – or game expansion – comes along.