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Tuesday, December 20, 2005

World of Warcraft Tops Five Million Players

World of Warcraft, a multiplayer role-playing game, has reached a major milestone. According to game developer Blizzard Entertainment, the game now has over five million players worldwide.

The subscription-based offering launched about a year ago in North America, Australia, and New Zealand, and also has been introduced in Europe and Asia.

Building on the success of the first version, Blizzard is poised to deliver a World of Warcraft expansion called "World of Warcraft: The Burning Crusade," designed to extend the boundaries of the game with more content and features, including new lands and creatures.

Well Built

World of Warcraft's popularity can be attributed in large part to the effort put into its development by Blizzard, said Jason Della Rocca, director of the International Game Developers Association. "They have a very good track record, and they spent three or four years creating this game, which is about twice as long as most developers put into their products," he said.

Della Rocca also noted that World of Warcraft has a relatively easy learning curve compared to other online multiplayer games. "Players can get involved quickly without experiencing frustration," he said. "And the graphics and audio are very high quality."

Yankee Group analyst Michael Goodman said World of Warcraft took the online gaming market by storm in a short time. "It has global appeal, unlike most games that do well in either Asia or the U.S. but typically not in both regions," he said.

Fun and Games

Interest in online gaming is strong, with an estimated 20 to 30 million players in Asia and about four million players in the U.S., said Goodman. It's a lucrative business as well, with each player paying $40 to $50 for the box set and a subscription fee of $5 to $10 per month.

"Some of these games also include free access to basic levels that are supported by advertisements that are integrated into the games themselves," said Goodman.

Demand for multiplayer online gaming should grow, the analyst said, citing new titles based on the popular Dungeons & Dragons role-playing game and the Lord of the Rings books.

Still, Della Rocca pointed out that the number of online players pales in comparison to those having their fun on gaming consoles such as Xbox, PlayStation, and Game Cube, which number in the tens of millions.

World of Warcraft defines customers as those who have paid a subscription fee or purchased a prepaid card to play the game, as well as those who have purchased the installation box bundled with one free month of access.

Players who have accessed the game in the past week also are counted as customers. To arrive at the five-million figure, Blizzard did not include players using free promotional subscriptions, expired or cancelled subscriptions, and expired prepaid cards.



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