global World of Warcraft demographics

I’ve been trying to figure out how many people play WoW in different countries, and today I got an email from davesgonechina, who was asking the same thing.

Generally, people say there are nearly seven million WoW players now. [Add ref] However, as far as I can tell, there are five million Chinese players alone – I think these are in addition to Western players (EU and US).

This blog post explains that Blizzard has licenced WoW China to the company The9, and that as a publicly traded company, The9 has to release quarterly reports on revenue etc. That means we can get lots of data from those quarterly reports.

The report for the second quarter of 2006 states the following:

In the second quarter, Blizzard Entertainment’s World of Warcraft attained peak and average concurrent WoW users of approximately 630,000 and 330,000, respectively, in mainland China. As of June 30, 2006, over 5 million paid accounts have been activated*.

The footnote to that reads:

*Activated paid accounts represent the number of CD Keys that we sold to customers and have been activated by the customers to log-on to the World of Warcraft game in China.

So 5 million people play the Chinese version of WoW.

Chart showing increase in WoW players in East and WestT.L. Taylor also sent along this recent presentation that Vivendi (who own Blizzard who develop and run WoW) gave to their investors. It says WoW from Blizzard has over 6.5 million customers (June 2006), but you can also see that all their other games have sold a lot more – the single-player Warcraft games, Diablo, Spyro, etc, though also over many more years.

This chart seems to show WoW players according to “East” or “West”. Presumably that means Asia or Europe/US/Australia? If so, it’s clear that the five million Chinese players (only about 4 million in “East” (i.e. China, Taiwan, Singapore, Korea) in the chart, which shows data from the first quarter of 2006) far outnumber the Western players, and that they’re growing a lot faster than the Western players.

The chart below is also from that same Vivendi presentation to investors, and shows the different regions and languages covered.

Makes me feel rather humble – sure, we think we know World of Warcraft, but do we really? Can we really, without knowing what it’s like to play the Chinese version. Even the interface is rather different from the European version, as this YouTube video that Lisbeth shared (it’s for her death stories project) shows – look at the size of that text sliding up the screen during combat! What cultural differences might there not be between an Asian server and a Western server? After all, T.L. Taylor has showed that there are large differences even just between a US server and a European server.

Does anyone know of research on these things?

07. November 2006 by Jill
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