The number of people playing Activision Blizzard games each month has dropped to levels previously seen last summer, before a brief boost delivered by big releases like Overwatch 2 and Call of Duty in the back half of last year.
Monthly active users for Activision games – primarily its Call of Duty series – fell to 98 million as of March 31, down from 111 million at the end of December 2022.
That’s comparable to the figure seen at the end of September last year, before the arrival of Modern Warfare 2 and the big 2.0 relaunch of live service Warzone in November.
Modern Warfare 2 has been promoted as a huge success for Activision – it’s the most lucrative COD launch ever! — though the language used to describe Warzone 2.0 has been more cautious. Back in February, Activision said the twin launch had ushered in “strong year-over-year growth in franchise reach,” but acknowledged that growth was “moderate post-launch.”
On the blizzard side, the fall is similar. As of March 31 this year, 27 million people were playing Blizzard games per month, down significantly from 45 million playing at the end of December. Blizzard recorded a total of 27 million monthly players in June last year.
Overwatch 2 arrived in October as a forced update to its hero shooter series.
The end of last year also saw the launch of World of Warcraft: Dragonflight. For the first time in 10 years, sales of the expansion were slightly less than the expansion’s predecessor (2020’s Shadowlands). Activision said at the time, “While initial Dragonflight sales have not reached pre-expansion levels, community response to the title has been positive.”
Blizzard’s player numbers will also be affected by the recent shutdown of its games in China (except for Diablo Immortal), following an acrimonious relationship with local publisher NetEase.
World of Warcraft, Overwatch, Hearthstone, Diablo 3, Heroes of the Storm and StarCraft series have been unplayable in China since January 23 this year, leaving players in limbo.
In contrast, Activision Blizzard’s mobile arm King has continued to grow its monthly users, growing from 10 million to 243 million players.
Yesterday’s news that the UK blocked Microsoft’s $68.7 billion acquisition of Activision Blizzard was a blow to the company that notably drove its share price as well.
2023 will see the long-awaited arrival of Diablo 4 in June – and so far, pre-launch buzz has been positive. On Activision’s side, expect another boxed Call of Duty release – reportedly, another Modern Warfare.