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World of Warcraft subscribers dip again

Bigger-than-Firelands update coming 2011.

In October 2010, World of Warcraft reached 12 million subscribers. By the end of March 2011, that number decreased to 11.4 million.

Now Blizzard has revealed that, as of the end of June, that number had fallen again - down to 11.1 million subscribers worldwide.

Blizzard CEO Mike Morhaime called this "a slight decrease" while speaking in an Activision-Blizzard earnings call last night (transcribed by Morningstar).

"In terms of subscriber growth around the world, what I would say is what we have seen is that subscribership [sic] tends to be seasonal and driven by content updates," said Morhaime. "As we are heading further away from an expansion launch, it's normal to seasoned declines where the team is currently working on our largest content update since Cataclysm and that will hit later this year."

"The team is currently working on our largest content update since Cataclysm and that will hit later this year."

Mike Morhaime, CEO, Blizzard

Morhaime's declaration that this upcoming content update will be the largest since Cataclysm means besting WOW's Rage of the Firelands patch 4.2, itself a considerable addition.

Blizzard registered a trademark this week protecting the name Mists of Pandaria. Could this be the name not of an expansion but this upcoming 2011 content update?

Since the end of June, when that 11.1 million subscriber number was recorded, Blizzard has launched third WOW expansion Cataclysm in China. "Concurrency levels increased substantially," noted Morhaime, before adding "there are more broadband users in China than in any other country in the world".

Blizzard also has plans to launch a Portuguese WOW client and service in Brazil this year. That's a territory that has "a lot of potential", said Morhaime. He added that Blizzard had enjoyed "great success" in Russia, too.

"There are other countries we're looking at beyond that as well but I don't have anything that I can talk about," Morhaime went on to reveal.

"Aside from promoting World of Warcraft in other regions, we're taking other steps to bring more players into the community," Morhaime added, pin-pointing the unlimited-time free trial that caps at character level 20.

"Since the launch of this program, we've seen a significant increase in new account creations," he said, with the caveat that it was "still too early to tell on conversions to subscribership [sic]".

"But I really believe that that is an important direction for us to continue lowering that barrier to trial and reaching new players around the world."

The new WOW patch will have to top this.