The absurd success of World of Warcraft is now slightly less absurd. During a conference call with investors, Blizzard president Mike Morhaime revealed that by the end of March WoW's subscriber base had dipped to 11.4 million from its previous high of 12 million.

Morhaime explained that subscriber bases fluctuate based on how quickly players complete the existing content. He added that this was the fastest decline in subscriber levels out of all three expansions. The implication, then, is that players gobbled up the Cataclysm expansion's launch content quicker than was the case with Wrath of the Lich King or The Burning Crusade.

Cataclysm launched in December so it was four months old by the end of March. That's a long time to go without a major update. It's not hard to imagine players leveling to the new cap of 85, finishing all the dungeons, and then getting bored - especially if they're not interested in raiding. The launch of Rift in the first week of March probably didn't help matters.

Blizzard is slowly but surely adding more content to Cataclysm, though. Patch 4.1, released at the end of April, brought back the old raid instances Zul'Aman and Zul'Gurub as heroic 5-man dungeons. The next big update, Patch 4.2, will add a new raid instance (Firelands) and daily questing area. Patch 4.2 is currently on the public testing realm and will go live in the coming months.

Will these updates bring back all these 600,000 subscribers? Maybe, maybe not. I doubt every person who quit did so because they had finished everything the expansion had to offer and got bored. It's possible they got bored before they finished the leveling grind or the dungeons. We're talking about a game that's over six years old by now. Some people would rather just move on to something new.

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