World of Warcraft might be down 800,000 players, but that hasn't stopped Blizzard from raking in a tidy profit in other ways from those who've stayed.
Despite widely reported subscription losses, World of Warcraft is still making Blizzard a silly amount of money. Between the card game, in-game microtransactions, apparel, plush toys, books, and assorted collectables, Blizzard's most popular IP isn't going to be dipping into the red anytime soon. It seems it's even been profiting heavily on optional account security in the form of Battle.net Authenticators, a small device that helps protect your level 85 shaman from those noisome twelve-year-old hackers sporting a grisly penchant for shady Craigslist dealings. These little gizmos cost $6.50 a pop, and have already made Blizzard an enviable $26 million bucks.
The authenticator works thusly: you buy a little WoW-skinned keychain from the Blizzard store, then press a button on its end each time you want to log on. A small screen on one side shows a specially generated code, meaning you suddenly have a second, nearly infallible layer of protection for your account. Character hacking has become so rampant in the game that upward of 40% of WoW players now use one of these nifty devices to protect themselves.
Normally, gamers might get a bit uppity about having to pay extra to secure their accounts, but in this case, there's a legitimate additional cost for Blizzard to make this available. And seeing as how they've already managed to bag $26 million smackers by offering it, this seems like an easy win-win. With database hacking in vogue right now, it makes me wonder if we'll see similar devices for other services soon.