In a press release sent out yesterday Activision Blizzard declared they have claimed their independence from parent company Vivendi Universal. The move apparently was spearheaded by Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick and Co-Chairman Brian Kelly, who pitched in a total of $100 million so they could buy out shares of the company.
Ultimately this is all rather complicated business speak, but it comes down to the power to control your own destiny (see what I did there?). Activision can now steer their own course as they look toward the next generation of consoles, and Blizzard no longer has to answer to corporate suits about their work. Once news broke out about this the cost of shares in Activision Blizzard soared, and so even the shareholders are happy.
The more interesting part of the announcement came a little later on, when the release mentioned that World of Warcraft has only 7.7 million subscribers, down from 11 million in 2008. While it seems that no other game was able to step up to the plate as the fabled WoW-killer, time and player apathy have eaten away at a steady chunk of the MMO's success. Blizzard isn't done yet though. They have one more WoW expansion coming, and Project Titan, which promises innovation at the highest levels.
Still, the dip in subscriber numbers points to a prevailing change in how MMO players view their relationships with these games. No longer are players willing to plunk down their $15.00 a month for a game. They want added value, and innovative payment models. If only Flagship Studios had been just a few years late on Hellgate: London, they might have survived in today's MMO climate. If they hadn't though, we never would have had Torchlight, and I know we're all better off for that.