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Star Wars blasts away at WoW subscriptions

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Star Wars Old Republic

The Sith are doing a number on the Horde.

Blizzard Entertainment has acknowledged that the December launch of EA's Star Wars: The Old Republic is a notable part of the reason subscriptions to World of Warcraft have been on the decline lately.

While traffic to the eight-year old title has been slowly declining for a while now, it has fallen precipitously in the past year as momentum has grown for EA's competitive offering. In November, Blizzard announced WoW's subscription count had fallen to 10.3 million players — a decline of 800,000 people — or more than 7 percent of its customers - in just three months.

[ Related: How to Throw a Star Wars, Star Trek & Avatar Birthday Party ]

"We certainly do look at [where WoW players go], and we have a very smart bunch of guys who do our analytics for us," senior World of Warcraft producer John Lagrave told EuroGamer. "Of course people are trying Star Wars - our development team are trying Star Wars! I'm one of the few people who's still playing it actually, but yeah we've seen a dip in subs. It certainly has to at least be attributable to The Old Republic."

At the height of its popularity, WoW boasted a subscriber base of 12 million players. Blizzard says it is taking steps to combat the erosion, both by improving content and via promotional events it believes will strengthen the player base.

A new expansion pack - Mists of Pandaria — is due out this year.  And the company is hoping to lure players by offering free copies of Diablo III to anyone who purchases an annual pass to WoW.

Part of the appeal of The Old Republic is the game's new take on the MMO genre. Because Bioware makes games differently than Blizzard, players have to relearn how to succeed and level up. With WoW, it was already pretty well ingrained.

"As our players have become more experienced playing World of Warcraft over many years, they have become much better and much faster at consuming content," said Blizzard president Mike Morhaime during a conference call with analysts in 2011.

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