World of Warcraft’s population may be shrinking, but that doesn’t mean the hearts of its players are. The same goes for Blizzard, the studio behind the world’s premiere MMO that’s fast approaching its tenth birthday. Both World of Warcraft’s community and creators banded together in the past two month to raise money for the American Red Cross in order to aid those affected by the monumental Hurricane Sandy that shook the eastern seaboard at the beginning of November. Blizzard announced on Thursday evening that it had raised $2.3 million by the end of December.
At the center of the fundraising effort was the Cinder Kitten, a pet that can be purchased in the game. Blizzard announced in December that it all adoption fees for the flaming beast would go towards those affected by the disaster, and WoW players responded “in droves” according to the studio.
Blizzard and the players of World of Warcraft have actually built a tradition of altruism around the game. In October 2011, Blizzard auctioned up decommissioned WoW server blades—that computers that actually hosted World of Warcraft realms—to raise money for St. Jude Children’s Hospital. The auctions brought in around $330,000.
The original Panderan Monk character featured in last year’s Mists of Pandaria was offered by Blizzard in 2009 as part of a fundraiser for the Make A Wish foundation, and the company raised a total of $1.1 million
There have even been fundraising efforts identical to the Cinder Kitten push. Following the earthquake and subsequent tsunami that rocked Japan in March 2011, Blizzard began selling Cenarion Hatchling pets and raised $1.9 million for the relief effort between May and July of that year. In 2010, Blizzard sold Moonkin pets, raising another $800,000 for the Make a Wish foundation.
World of Warcraft may still have room to grow as a fundraising tool, but the game itself appears to have lost room to grow. Mists of Pandaria sold just 2.7 million copies when it was released last fall, impressive numbers for most games, but a significant decline following the record-breaking 2010 release of the Cataclysm expansion. As of August, the total population of players had declined to just over 9 million, down from more than 10 million in May.