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'World of Warcraft' gets boost from new expansion

October 04, 2012|By Ben Fritz
  • Rudy Ruan, left, and Olivia Ortiz play "World of Warcraft" at BlizzCon at the Anaheim Convention Center.
Rudy Ruan, left, and Olivia Ortiz play "World of Warcraft" at… (Ricardo DeAratanha / Los…)

Online game "World of Warcraft" has turned around its two-year decline in subscribers thanks to a popular new expansion pack.

"Mists of Pandaria," a new retail game that adds a large new chunk of content for "Warcraft" players, sold 2.7 million copies during its first week on sale.

More important for game-maker Activision, excitement around "Pandaria" has brought back at least 900,000 players, who pay a monthly fee for the game. The Santa Monica company said it now has more than 10 million subscribers worldwide.

As of June 30, the company had 9.1 million subscribers, down from a high of 12 million in October 2010.

"World of Warcraft" players pay as much as $15 per month to play online. The game is extremely profitable and is Activision's most valuable franchise alongside the military shooter title "Call of Duty." Maintaining its subscriber base is crucial to the company's financial performance.

Though substantial, sales for "Pandaria" were not quite as big as the last two "Warcraft" expansion packs made by Activision's Irvine-based subsidiary, Blizzard Entertainment. In 2008, "Wrath of the Lich King" sold 2.8 million copies in its first 24 hours, and 2010's "Cataclysm" sold 3.3 million copies on its first day.

The new expansion pack costs between $40 and $80, depending on whether players purchase a basic or "collector's" edition.

Activision Blizzard stock was trading up 2% Thursday, at $11.42.

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