World of Warcraft has started to lose players at the fastest rate in the hit MMORPG's history - shedding almost a million players in the last three months alone, and triggering a fall in its developer's share price.
The revelation came during a conference call in which executives admitted that they finished the quarter with 10.3 million active subscribers to World of Warcraft, down from 11.1 million in the previous quarter - news that has no doubt dampened the good mood Activision/Blizzard must have been in after selling some 6 million copies of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 on the first day of its release.
Unfortunately for the publishing giant, the decline in WoW's fortunes has also impacted on the company's share price. Reuters reports that despite a rise in share price when early predictions for Call of Duty MW3 sales began coming in, the WoW announcement saw them dip back three per cent in after-hours trading.
"This trend is not good, especially when this business is their bedrock, their most profitable revenue-recurring business," said Wedbush Securities analyst Michael Pachter.
Despite stagnating after the easy and speedy completion of Cataclysm content, Blizzard's subscription-based MMORPG still generated over a billion dollars for the publisher last year. While losing a million players would result in a dip of at least $100 million over the next year, it's still a very profitable title for the company.
It's thought that new content will be developed to try to reverse this trend, but unless something big is put forward that improves things dramatically, WoW could see its userbase gradually trickle away over the next few years.
WoW's number of subscribers peaked in 2010, and since then has been losing players, with this latest drop accelerating the trend.