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Activision Blizzard player numbers tumble after brief end-of-year spike

Back to pre-Overwatch 2 and Warzone 2.0 numbers.

Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2
Image credit: Activision

The number of people playing Activision Blizzard games each month has dropped back down to levels previously seen last summer, before a brief boost bestowed by big releases such as Overwatch 2 and Call of Duty in the back half of last year.

Monthly active users for Activision games - primarily its Call of Duty series - fell to 98 million as of the 31st March, down from 111 million at the end of December 2022.

It's a figure roughly equal to that seen at the end of September last year, before the arrival of Modern Warfare 2 and the big 2.0 relaunch of live service Warzone in November.

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Modern Warfare 2 has been trumpeted as a huge success for Activision - its most lucrative COD launch ever! - though the language used to describe Warzone 2.0 has been more cautious. Back in February, Activision stated that the twin launches had sparked a "strong year-over-year increase in franchise reach", but admitted that growth had "moderated following the launch".

On the Blizzard side of things, the drop is similar. 27 million people were playing Blizzard games each month as of 31st March this year, down considerably from the 45 million playing at the end of December. Blizzard last recorded a total of 27 million monthly players back in June last year.

Overwatch 2 arrived in October as a forced update to its hero shooter series.

The end of last year also saw the launch of World of Warcraft: Dragonflight. For the first time in 10 years, sales of the expansion were down slightly on the expansion's predecessor (2020's Shadowlands). "While early Dragonflight sales have not reached the level of the prior expansion, community feedback on the title has been positive," Activision said at the time.

Blizzard's player numbers will also be hit by the recent shutdown of its games (excluding Diablo Immortal) in China, following an acrimonious breakup with local publisher NetEase.

World of Warcraft, Overwatch, Hearthstone, Diablo 3, Heroes of the Storm and the StarCraft series became unplayable in China from 23rd January this year, leaving players in limbo.

By contrast, Activision Blizzard's mobile arm King continues to grow its monthly users, which have swelled by 10 million to a huge 243 million players.

Yesterday's news that the UK has blocked Microsoft's $68.7bn Activision Blizzard acquisition was a shock to the company that notably also knocked its share price.

2023 will see the long-awaited arrival of Diablo 4 in June - and so far, pre-launch buzz has been positive. On Activision's side, expect another boxed Call of Duty release - reportedly, another Modern Warfare.

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