Thursday, May 15, 2008

Vivendi anticipates Wrath of the Lich King for second half of 2008

Vivendi, parent company of Blizzard, sent out a press release yesterday in which they say about World of Warcraft: "the second expansion set is anticipated to be released in the second half of 2008". Note that this isn't a guarantee, they were careful to insert the weasel word "anticipate" into the statement. Because if lets say WotLK was delayed half a year beyond that date, it could possibly affect the share price of Vivendi. And if they had promised a fixed date for the expansion, they would be vulnerable to lawsuits from angry investors.

Nevertheless of course Vivendi "anticipating" a second half 2008 release has a lot more weight than me anticipating the same time frame (which I did, repeatedly). In other news the same press release announced World of Warcraft's subscriber number to be 10.7 million now, having added 0.7 million subscribers in the first quarter of 2008. Vivendi Games revenues for the first quarter was $221 million, of which Blizzard made $192 million (of which $99 million were profit before taxes). Note that 4 quarters of $192 million do not $1 billion make. In fact Vivendi explains that their revenues first quarter 2008 was 24% lower than in 2007, because they did release the Burning Crusade last year, and no expansion yet this year. Which pretty much explains why Vivendi would very much like Wrath of the Lich King to come out before christmas: the sales would then mostly happen in the year 2008, and the year on year comparison wouldn't look so bad. Releasing a WoW expansion is like printing money: the sales of WotLK in the first month in the US and Europe alone will bring in as much revenue as the complete first quarter 2008. And as secondary effect the resubscriptions caused by the expansion will lift monthly revenue for several months. So this is serious money, and if WotLK slips into 2009 after all, somebody from Blizzard would have some difficult explanation to do. If you think players can be quite rabid when a game is delayed, wait until you see the guy whose annual multi-million dollar bonus depends on that release.

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