It hasn't been a great month for Blizzard. Warcraft 3: Reforged has completely fallen over, the company's bled talent from their esports division, and Overwatch fans are grumbling about a lack of content. And the grumbling appears to have taken a toll on the Blizzard fanbase, with Activision reporting a 1 million dip in Blizzard's monthly active users for the fourth quarter.
The figures were contained in the release for Activision-Blizzard's fourth quarter results, which was "better than expected" largely due to Call of Duty and the ongoing growth of King, the makers of Candy Crush and Candy Crush Saga.
For the third quarter of 2019, Blizzard had a combined 33 million active users across all its games. There's a qualifier here in that someone who plays two Blizzard games would be counted as double users, and anyone who plays the same game across multiple devices is also double-counted "due to technical limitations".
Still, the numbers are still a stable barometer for Blizzard: either more people are playing Blizzard games, or they aren't. And over the last quarter, Blizzard's monthly MAUs dropped from 33 million to 32 million, despite growth from the new Hearthstone expansion, Descent of Dragons, its free Battlegrounds battle royale mode, and the release of Overwatch on the Switch.
Update: Here's a slide from CNBC comparing the monthly active users from Q3 to Q4:
The figures depend on the lens you take. In one sense, they show that Blizzard fans haven't really gone anywhere despite a lot of the turbulence from the last year. Blizzard reported 35 million MAUs in February last year, 32 million MAUs in May, 32 million MAUs in August, and 33 million MAUs in November.
But the total figure for Blizzard's fanbase is still down 5 million monthly active users from when Battle for Azeroth launched, 8 million down from the fourth quarter of 2017, and 10 million down from the quarter before that. That's basically a quarter of Blizzard's total player base gone over the last few years, and Blizzard hasn't had the benefit of launching a mammoth mobile game like Call of Duty Mobile to shore up the bottom line.
It's even worse if you wind the clock back to Q2 2017, when Blizzard reported 46 million MAUs thanks to seasonal Overwatch events and growth in Hearthstone.
Fortunately for the company, Activision is remaining bullish on Overwatch 2 and Diablo 4. The release of Diablo Immortal is likely to boost the company's overall numbers a tad, and the fact that it plays like Diablo 3 will probably help immensely among Western gamers. Blizzard also confirmed that Diablo Immortal would begin "regional tests" in the middle of this year.