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World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King (PC)
at 8:30AM PST on March 4, 2010.
RE: Blizzard: WoW's stopped growing at 11.5m
The China factor isn't really 99% final nor is it as simple as that really.
I was shorting this stock *before* it became apparent that the Lich King release wouldn't be straight-forward. The reason? The method by which it is released and what counts as a "sale".
When the Burning Crusade was released in China, it was essentially rolled into the game like a patch. In China players do not purchase a game off a shelf, they play at Internet cafe's and buy playtime in minutes, almost like a pay-as-you-go mobile phone.
Essentially this means that existing Chinese WoW subscribers got the Burning Crusade for free. I do not think it appropriate for those to count as "sales". Conversely however, *new* subscribers to WoW could be counted and if they were then it can be said that Burning Crusade has racked up a fair few "sales" in the meantime.
Beyond the clarification on whether subscribers count, KultofCows hasn't had anything further to say on exactly what is and isn't counted. It's significant because China represents 40-50% of the active WoW subscriber base depending on who you ask. Zukaus didn't seem to want to engage me in a debate about it either, presumably because he's Zukaus and he's the capital to do what he likes anyway.
Now; my belief that the Lich King expansion may never see the light of day has certainly increased over the last 18 months but it remains just a possibility, not a given. I wasn't even suggesting it was the most likely outcome but it's certainly become more feasible as this has dragged on. In my opinion, this should have brought downward pressure on the stock if the exchange was calibrated correctly.
But even if it released, WoW growth has definitely slowed. The regulatory situation in China certainly hasn't helped matters and Activision themselves recognise the risk when the game is spending weeks even months on end offline. Realistically, how many *new* subscribers will start playing WoW in China if it comes out this year even? In turns of revenue potential, surely a new game like StarCraft II would be a much bigger priority then boosting WoW revenue in China by 10%-20% with this expansion. As much as China makes up 50% of the userbase, it's nothing like that in terms of the revenue.
So to sum up, I think there are a fair few questions even if it is released, and no release still remains a possibility even if it's not the most likely one.
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