The lights are on
Normally, delays and restarts on games that haven't even been formally announced wouldn't be earthshaking news. When it's a project coming out of Blizzard though, people take notice.
According to a report from GamesBeat, backed by a statement from a Blizzard representative, the company's next MMO has been delayed. Staff have been shifted to "assist with other project" as the main team on the project (codenamed "Titan") make changes to the technology underneath the title. The project was first confirmed in 2010 (and rumored even before that).
Projects get delayed all the time, and some that have gone through multiple iterations end up being better for it. The more important impact is on Activision's financial position in 2014 and 2015.
When the publisher announced its first quarter 2013 performance, it was already cautious about the latter half of this year due to the console transition. While this news doesn't impact the revenue side of the equation for the current cycle (and could aid the expense side with fewer staff devoted to the project), it could cause problems down the line as World of Warcraft subscriptions decline.
The marquee MMO saw a dropoff of 1.3 million subscribers in the first quarter, though the company identified the majority of these losses to be from the East. Typically, Western players play longer and yield more revenue than those in Eastern countries.
CEO Bobby Kotick expressed optimism about using the new MMO to recapture players that had departed Azeroth. Transitioning World of Warcraft players (or getting them to double up) to a new MMO will be easier than recapturing from other companies. There are embedded advertising and promotional opportunities that will have narrowing reach as time goes on, should subscriptions continue on a downward trend.
The only other long term project coming out of Blizzard that we know of is the All-Stars MOBA. 2013 will see the release of the beta for Warcraft collectible card game Hearthstone, which is positioned to yield long-term revenue given the free-to-play model. This year will also welcome Diablo III to PlayStation 3 with a next-generation version coming to Sony's new console at some point.
Email the author Mike Futter, or follow on Google+, Twitter, and Game Informer.
This would have upset me had the news come even last year, but at this point it's hard for me to rally up any fanfare for this. I am sure it'll be a great game once it eventually releases, but MMOs were a much bigger deal when this game was initially confirmed.
Blizzard and delays go together like peanut butter and jelly.