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World of Warcraft loses a million subscribers. Can pandas save it?

World of Warcraft remains atop the online roleplaying game market. But publisher Blizzard says subscriber numbers have slipped. 

By Matthew Shaer / August 3, 2012

A screenshot from Mists of Pandaria, the latest expansion pack for World of Warcraft.

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According to publisher Blizzard Entertainment, the number of World of Warcraft subscribers shrank from 10.2 million to 9.1 million during the last fiscal quarter – a significant slip for the reigning heavyweight of the online roleplaying game market.

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In an earnings call with investors, Blizzard chief Mike Morhaime said the "majority of declines" had come from Asia, and chalked the Q2 figures up to a lag in new content. 

"Historically, we have seen usage decline towards the end of an expansion cycle," says Morhaime, according to a transcript of the call. "We saw a similar drop in subscribers in the months before [the Cataclysm expansion pack], followed by a substantial number of returning players around the Cataclysm launch. We're also seeing that a number of players took a break from World of Warcraft to play Diablo III." 

So what can Blizzard do to halt the loss of subscribers? Release another expansion pack, naturally. Blizzard will launch Mists of Pandaria on Sept. 25. Pandaria includes new maps, new Panda avatars, and a new fighting class: the monk. The standard edition of Mists of Pandaria will retail for $39.99 and the Digital Deluxe version – with a bunch of in-game content included – will set you back $59.99. 

In related news, the long-awaited World of Warcraft movie is reportedly getting a new writer. (Sam Raimi, the director originally tapped to helm the WoW flick, has long since jumped ship.) Variety reports that screenwriting duties will now fall to Charles Leavitt, who helped shape the films Blood Diamond and K-PAX. With the way things have gone thus far – rumors of the movie first start gurgling up around 2006 – expect WoW to hit theaters sometime in 2034. 

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