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Significant decline in World of Warcraft subscribers

800,000 lost in the three months ended September 30

Activision posted a rise in sales and a massive jump in profits for the three months ended September 30, but the "lone blemish on the quarter was a significant decline in World of Warcraft subscribers".

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That's according to Doug Creutz, analyst at Cowen and Company, who said in a research note sent out this morning: "In its Q3:F11 earnings conference call Activision Blizzard reported that worldwide active subscribers to World of Warcraft finished the September quarter at 10.3MM, a decrease of 800K during the quarter.

"They further specified that a majority of the decline in active accounts was 'coming from the East', i.e. mostly from China."

Last month, Blizzard announced the fourth expansion for World of Warcraft, the long-rumoured Mists of Pandaria. It will introduce the panda-like Pandaren as a playable race, add a new player class and up the level cap to 90, among other features.

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Of course, World of Warcraft also has upcoming competition from December release Star Wars: The Old Republic. Developer BioWare thinks its game "will more than compete" with WoW following "a fantastic response" from beta testers.

But analyst Creutz delivered a pretty damning hands-on impression of The Old Republic back in June, when he described the game as "highly derivative" of World of Warcraft.

"We got hands-on time with the game, and were largely unimpressed," he wrote. "Despite promises from EA/Bioware that the title represents a major step forward in MMO design, what we saw was essentially a World of Warcraft clone with Star Wars character skins and the Bioware RPG nice/nasty dialogue tree mechanism bolted on for non-player character conversations."

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