Nearly four years have passed since World of Warcraft was at its peak and boasting more than 12 million subscribers , but the aging MMO isn’t ready to roll over and die just yet. With big-budget next-gen games like The Elder Scrolls Online on the way, the genre aims to remain relevant on both consoles and PCs.
Although TESO is attempting to launch with a traditional subscription model, the general consensus is that free-to-play models are the future for the massively multiplayer genre. Many current MMOs (like Star Wars: The Old Republic) have been forced to abandon their subscription models to stay in the game, but Blizzard’s decade-old RPG continues to be one of the very few exceptions.
The latest figures reported by Activision reveal that despite WoW’s recent downward trend in subscriptions, Azeroth actually welcomed approximately 200,000 new (or returning) paying citizens between to the World of Warcraft between November of 2013 and December of 2013. That brings the current tally up to 7.8 million WoW subscribers by the end of last year.
Thanks to Blizzard’s announcement of the next expansion pack, Warlords of Draenor, and the proposed expansion pack per year strategy, it seems like the aging MMO may be experiencing a bit of resurgence in popularity. Although there is definitely no shortage of newer, less expensive, and subscriptionless competition on the market, the loyal Blizzard fan base doesn’t seem to be ready to leave Azeroth quite yet.
The numbers have proven time and time again that Blizzard is still retaining more than enough players to justify the $15 per month subscription model. The game would need to see a serious drop off in players before the switch to a primarily micro-transaction-based model looked profitable.
Even with the planned decrease in gaps between expansion releases, it is unlikely that we will see the MMO titan rise back up over 10 million subscriptions, where it stood for a handful of years in its prime. Despite the amount of content available and the dedicated fanbase, the aging client and outdated graphics will have a hard time pulling in the next generation of gamers. The Warlords of Draenor expansion plans to update some of the race aesthetics, rather than adding a brand new race, but the presentation still isn’t quite as shiny and fresh as the next-gen competition.
There’s no doubt that subscriptions will spike again when Warlords is released, but we are interested to see if the next quarter or two will show another increase in players before there is any new content unleashed.
Are you still willing to pay a subscription fee for MMOs or do you prefer free-to-play games with microtransactions? Sound off in the comments.
World of Warcraft is currently available for Mac and PC.
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