World Of Warcraft Sheds 800,000 Subscribers, 6.8 Million Still Addicted

When Blizzard released World of Warcraft in 2004, the MMO world didn't know what was about to hit it. At the time of the game's release, I played two different MMOs, and post-WoW launch, I was amazed at the number of people who abandoned those games in favor of Blizzard's new hotness. In fact, in many ways, WoW caused the death of many an MMO. It's not just the fact that WoW was a good MMO; it was seriously accessible, and once most of your MMO-playing friends are in there, it's hard to break free.

Well, it appears that free-to-play MMOs have been having the same effect on WoW that it had on other MMOs. Over the course of the game's lifetime, it's topped the charts of most subscription-based MMOs, peaking at 12 million in 2010. In 2011, the game experienced its first big drop, which brought it down to 11.1 million. Since then, it's continued to decline very rapidly: The game lost a staggering 800,000 subscribers in the last quarter alone, and currently sits at 6.8 million.

From 12 million to 6.8 million in the span of four years is striking for an MMO that seemed untouchable. As many MMOs do as their playbases begin to decline, Blizzard opened up a cash shop late last year, and so far, it seems to be working out quite well for it. Last month, showed that WoW was still the biggest revenue earner in 2013, being the only MMO to break through the $1 billion barrier. To put things into perspective, Lineage 1, an MMO only available in South Korea, placed second with $253 million. On account of the fact that that revenue comes from a single country, and not the world over like WoW's, that's even more impressive in some ways. Well, there's also the fact that Lineage 1 came out in 1998.

While WoW's subscription numbers continue to decline, it might get a little boost again when its fourth expansion, Warlords of Draenor, gets released this fall. However, as free-to-play MMOs have exploded in popularity since Mists of Pandaria's release in 2012, Blizzard's going to have to work some serious magic to manage to pull people away from their current MMOs and go buy it.

It's going to be very interesting to see where the subscription numbers stand - and the revenue numbers for that matter - in one year's time. For many years, WoW truly did seem unstoppable, and while it still has enormous revenue and a huge playerbase, the effect free-to-play games has had on the game is very obvious. That doesn't only go for WoW, of course, but when an MMO is this large, its effects are very easily seen.

Via:  VentureBeat
altshep123 4 months ago

I imagine Blizzard has a threshold in mind for subscriptions that will trigger even WoW's move to f2p, but 6 million is nowhere near that... Have we ever seen such complete and dominant control over a genre?

It will take a revolutionary game to break Blizzard's grip. It won't simply be an evolved combat system, amazing PvP/RvR, next-gen graphics or lore. It's going to take an evolved sandbox title that gives people the sort of simple building blocks for creativity as you would find in something like Minecraft or Little Big Planet, perhaps with procedurally generated or user generated content.

Maybe that's a pipe dream or too impossible a task. I would be utterly captivated by a game that allowed for user driven content, stories, quests, and rewards in a world as beautiful and vast as any modern MMO. Think table-top RPG meets todays MMORPG/FPS. A game where authors are given tools to build not just a guild house, but entire instances for other players to engage in, with a ranking/popularity system to filter out the noise and some studio created polished content to keep the ball rolling.

Otherwise its going to be "theme park" remakes and the same rehashed "sandbox" options we're already seeing fall short of the mark.

RWilliams 4 months ago

"I imagine Blizzard has a threshold in mind for subscriptions that will trigger even WoW's move to f2p, but 6 million is nowhere near that..."

I agree, but I'm wondering if that threshold is somewhere around 3 million. The company doesn't want the game's population to dwindle so much that the allure is going to fade... if a game goes F2P and it's a known fact that the playerbase is small (in comparison to other MMOs), people might not have a ton of interest. And those that paid for subscriptions up to that point are likely to continue sinking money into the game. It's inevitable that F2P is definitely in WoW's future though, as it pretty much is with every other MMO.

"Maybe that's a pipe dream or too impossible a task. I would be utterly captivated by a game that allowed for user driven content, stories, quests, and rewards in a world as beautiful and vast as any modern MMO."

I agree. I feel like that kind of design would be very difficult to pull off properly, though. I am an old-school MMOer... I just wish games would come out and stick to being pay-to-play. It really sucks out a lot of the immersion for me when a cash store icon hangs in a noticeable corner. I miss the days where XP boosts, mounts, outfits, weapon upgrades, etc, were not just a click away.

Seems certain we'll never return back to that.

MADSKILLZ412 4 months ago

It would be kind of sad to see WoW end. I never got into it, but I know many people have been playing it since it's release back in '04. 6.8 million is still a lot of people to be playing such an old game though. Considering people today sometimes won't even play a good game if it doesn't have amazing graphics.

RWilliams 4 months ago

I have a feeling that Blizzard plans to keep WoW alive for as long as possible, even if it comes down to there being just one server. That might be a pipe dream (I've never played the game, so I don't have interest personally), but being the success that the game is, I don't think Blizzard would want it to fade away.

Ricofrost 4 months ago

Even at 1million subs paying $15 per month they would make $180,000,000 per year.

Ricofrost 4 months ago

Yes i have been playing since a few months after the release. It is the main game i play, and in that time i have spent 14 months playing swtor. Swtor was the only other game to pull me away from wow. I still play wow now everyday.

Ricofrost 4 months ago

DFC has now raised its internal forecast for the global PC gaming market this year from $22 billion to $25 billion.

Free-to-play continues to be a huge factor in the PC games market's growth, but DFC found that upfront payments are working well too.

People are moving back to PC.

altshep123 4 months ago

One can only hope. I'm not a huge fan of F2P when it comes to games I'm serious about. I never end up spending more than $20 bucks on a F2P game (an honest thanks if I've played more than 20hrs or so) and even that is rare, simply because they usually don't keep my attention. I have no regrets paying monthly for WoW and would prefer paying full price up front for a finished title rather than having a pay-to-win model always looming over my gaming experience.

Thanks for the stat. Is that pulled from this site: ? They've been around for awhile, but are they reliable?

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