Mike Morheime

For players or profit? Activision-Blizzard at odds over Diablo 3's cash auction house

Owen Hill at

Diablo 3's auction house is a contentious subject. It'll let players trade in-game loot for real-life cash. Blizzard will take a set fee for each transaction. It's being described in very different ways to players and to investors. To players and the specialist press, Blizzard have repeatedly emphasised that the real-money auction house is meant to protect gamers from shady gold sellers. To investors, Activision-Blizzard are talking up the profit potential.

We spoke to Diablo 3's Jay Wilson about Blizzard's motivation for the feature in August. At the time, it seemed that making a profit from the auction house wasn't high on the game designer's priority list: “We expect it’ll break even. We talked about this as a service we wanted to provide players and not primarily as a financial model. We don’t know if it will make us money," he said.

"It would be nice if it did, but as long as we don’t lose money; that’s really what we care about: that we provide the players with a great experience that doesn’t put us out of business," he continued.

That was three months ago. The auction house came up at Activision Blizzard's recent Q3 2011 Earnings Call multiple times, mostly when people were talking about profit margins and business models. It seems that the auction house could end up turning a profit, accidentally or not. And in corporate land, Activision Blizzard's CFO Thomas Tippl, is enthusiastic about the item-trading system's potential for generating cash.

World of Warcraft subscriptions decline slightly to 11.4 million; new premium mount soon

Tim Edwards at

Speaking at the Activision Blizzard investor call, Blizzard CEO Mike Morheime revealed the current subscriber numbers for World of Warcraft. Currently, the game has 11.4 million subscribers worldwide, down on the 12 million figure quoted in October 2010. Mike, in answering investor's questions put the decline down to the player's voracious consumption of the Cataclysm content, and promised to get expansions out faster. "The more experienced [our players] are, they've become much faster at consuming content. We need to be faster in delivering expansions to players. We're looking at ways to speed up the development process." Mike also noted that player numbers have "declined at a faster rate" than during the previous expansion.

However, Blizzard and their partners, Netease, were looking to launch the new expansion pack in China this year.

Mike also highlighted the recent addition of premium mobile services for World of Warcraft, in the mobile auction house and mobile guild chat, whilst also letting slip that a new premium mount would be added to the game soon.

I bet it's a flaming flying horse. With laser eyes.