Monthly active users in Blizzard Entertainment games have fallen to 27 million this fiscal quarter; a 29% drop over three years.
As reported by Massively Overpowered, Activision Blizzard’s Q1 2021 financial report has revealed the company made $2.28 billion USD (a noted “significant” increase compared to the same quarter last year), with major contributors being Call of Duty, World of Warcraft, and Candy Crush.
In the section discussing Blizzard Entertainment specifically, they note revenue has grown 7% year-over-year, led by strong growth in the Warcraft franchise. They also note the company has 27 million monthly active users. However, Massively Overpowered reports this is a drop of 29% over three years. You can find their examples (along with major events) below.
38M in Q1 2018
37M in Q2 2018
37M in Q3 2018 (BFA)
35M in Q4 2018 (mass layoffs)
32M in Q1 2019
32M in Q2 2019
33M in Q3 2019 (WoW Classic)
32M in Q4 2019 (Blitzchung)
32M in Q1 2020 (COVID-19)
32M in Q2 2020 (COVID-19)
30M in Q3 2020 (COVID-19)
29M in Q4 2020 (COVID-19, Shadowlands)
27M in Q1 2021 (this quarter)
As Massively Overpowered had previously reported however, Activision Blizzard can be generous in its definition of a monthly active user.
For example, the financial reports note “An individual who accesses two of our games would be counted as two users,” “For Blizzard, an individual who accesses the same game on two platforms or devices in the relevant period would generally be counted as a single user,” and “MAU data is based on information provided to us by those third parties, or, if final data is not available, reasonable estimates of MAUs for these third-party published games.”
Massively Overpowered highlight how the vagueness of the terms could potentially be abused.
“In other words, some of Activision’s divisions conveniently count users multiple times, while Blizzard ‘generally’ doesn’t. But what does ‘generally’ actually mean in this context? What are the exceptions? We have no idea. How exactly does Blizzard check its third-party reporting from its overseas partners? Again, we don’t know. What constitutes a ‘reasonable estimate’ in this context? You get the pattern.
I’m not saying Blizzard is absolutely counting one person four times for logging into Battle.net, Hearthstone, Heroes of the Storm, and Warcraft III: Reforged for a matter of seconds in each place. I’m stating as fact that it is legally possible thanks to waffle words, and based on the bolded text it actually seems likely. So long as nothing being stated is an actual falsehood, the reports can say whatever they want.”
Massively Overpowered also address how financial reports are typically presented in such a way to assure investors that the company is doing well, and using comparisons to break down that information.
Despite announcements and releases such as Overwatch 2, World of Warcraft: Shadowlands, World of Warcraft: Classic – The Burning Crusade, Diablo IV and Diablo II: Resurrected; Blizzard Entertainment has had more than its fair share of bad PR over those three years.
Starting with recent affairs, Blizzard Entertainment Vice President and Overwatch director Jeff Kaplan left the company in late April, casting doubt on Overwatch 2. Michael Chu, the Lead Writer for Overwatch and Overwatch 2, also left in March 2020.
Blizzard Entertainment also replaced Kael’thas’ voice actor Quinton Flynn in World of Warcraft, likely due to allegations of sexual misconduct. This was in spite of a judge’s ruling the allegations were falsified by an obsessive stalker.
Players of the Diablo II: Resurrected alpha test were outraged over the censorship of the Amazon, along with other characters and pre-release footage. Employees had also been reportedly dissatisfied with pay and pay rises [1, 2].
Warcraft III: Reforged‘s launch was nothing short of a disaster; including poor graphics, stripping away many online elements, and a new EULA effectively banning many custom maps and game modes- along with making said game modes property of Blizzard Entertainment. All of this also replaced the original Warcraft III in an update (with the ability to toggle between the old and new graphics).
The user review score on Metacritic was so low, it end up becoming the lowest user-rated game on the review aggregate website at the time of its launch.
The announcement of Diablo Immortal for smartphones was also poorly received; with one attendee of Blizzcon 2018 asking during a Q&A session “is this an out of season April Fool’s joke?” The game’s announcement came prior to even rumors of Diablo II: Resurrected or Diablo IV.
The biggest incident in the last few years was how Blizzard Entertainment suspended pro-Hearthstone player Blitzchung for his support of the Hong Kong protests, fired the casters, and their overall handing of the entire debacle.
This was only made worse when Blizzard’s Chinese social media further condemned Blitzchung and stated “We will always respect and defend the pride of our country.” In addition Overwatch Esports Assistant Coach Justin “Jayne” Conroy was forced to delete a tweet condemning Blizzard’s actions.
Fans turned Overwatch character Mei into a symbol of the Hong Kong protests, Hearthstone caster Brian Kibler quit the tournament, former Blizzard Producer Mark Kern joined the Boycott Blizzard movement, Blizzard employees walked out in protest, a collegiate tournament team was banned for conducting a similar protest (after the team complained they were not banned initially), and even US Senators condemned Blizzard’s actions in an open letter to Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick.
Blizzard finally released a statement, revealing they had returned Blitzchung’s confiscated prize money and reduced his suspension time. The statement also claimed that “relationships in China had no influence on our decision.”
We looked into the financials of parent company Activision Blizzard to see if that was the case. Tencent owns 5% of Activision Blizzard, with profits from China making up less than 13% of their total.
While all these above factors have cause Blizzard Entertainment bad PR, it is impossible to know if it is controversy or the games causing gamers to walk away; or a mixture thereof. What do you think? Sound off in the comments below!