WoW sub stats published – Unsurprisingly Downward

I know reading about World of Warcraft subscriptions is more click bait and flame war material, but I can’t help be interested. The stats show a clear downward trend in subscriptions, and I find that obvious.

Without new content the player base leaves, and it has been a long time since new content has been put into the game. Further the community has been told that it will be a while to go before the Warlords updates, which acts as a negative incentive to keep subscribed during the quiet time. Wrath was the game’s peak, but The Burning Crusade added a huge amount of players to the game.

Graph of subscriber numbers, via MMO Champion

Graph of subscriber numbers, via MMO Champion

At 6.8 million accounts the game is back to subscriber numbers from the Original release. Warlords will be the 5th expansion for WoW, and any gamer or marketer will know that holding interest over ten years and 4 previous expansions is difficult.

Should you as a current player be worried that subs continue to drop?

Maybe, but probably not. You’ve already played through the steady decline from the Wrath of the Lich King high subscriber numbers, so you’ve experienced what it is like to recruit, replace, transfer, and then repeat each X number of months. If you are playing now then you’ll probably continue to play, and that means it only gets better for you when WoD is released.

Should a retired player be worried?

Not at all. You’ll either see something worth paying for, or you’ve moved on. Such is life, enjoy what you enjoy folks. Nobody should feel obligated to play, and nobody should be derided for playing now. The game will be released again, and people will play. I know I’ll probably subscribe again. The WoD expansion might hold off the decline in subs again for a bit, or it might continue to drop.You can be certain that overtime more folks will probably leave than join. WoW was a strange game in the early days because it added subscribers in such an abnormal way. It now uses the subscriber trends that many other games have; again unsurprising.

Essentially it won’t matter until the numbers are low enough to make Blizzard reconsider the product, and I think we’re many years away from that. Will 6 million be an issue? 3 million? Even a few million accounts is still a very large revenue stream per month.

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2 thoughts on “WoW sub stats published – Unsurprisingly Downward

  1. I find it interesting that Wrath’s numbers were effectively stable for the life of the expansion. It was the climax and conclusion of the story arc that began in Warcraft III. But it also introduced a lot of now-commoditized features that formed the basis for the post-Wrath era. For example, phasing and dungeon finder have altered the game from resembling a persistent-world MMO to just being phased multiplayer. Absence of an enduring storyline plus the lack of innovation these past two expansions have contributed to WoW’s attrition problem.

  2. The LFD tool and phasing actually helped me play more in Wrath, where I would have left sooner without it. Wrath was the last expansion where I had a lot of free time to game, and my time dwindled toward the end. Those tools made the game playable for longer as a more casual player. I can certainly see how congruent story will drive player engagement though, so I don’t totally disagree. The more end-game players I know left for other games, and continue to move between games every 3-6 months as they finish the content. I don’t think an MMO should be trying to hold the hardcore & time rich players as they move on for other reasons, and frequently they come back too. Several very dedicated raiders I know return for each content patch, do their hard modes and leave.

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