‘World of Warcraft’ Subscriptions Down, Expansions Coming ‘Faster’

Published 4 years ago by , Updated May 12th, 2011 at 12:47 pm,

World of Warcraft Subscriptions Expansion Faster

World of Warcraft has long been a license to print money for Blizzard, a company without any shortage of profitable franchises. But as it turns out, even the most popular franchise in the most populous market isn’t immune to the ups and downs of fan tastes. Blizzard has revealed that just months after the record-breaking launch of Cataclysm, the number of subscribers has dropped to its lowest point since 2008. Due to the tendency of WoW‘s fans to burn through content, Blizzard is already planning on developing and releasing future expansions at a much faster rate.

It isn’t surprising to hear that the bloated population of over 12 million WoW players who resubscribed to the service in the months leading up to couldn’t last forever, but apparently fans of Cataclysm have gotten their fill much faster than even Blizzard may have expected.

The new statistics came in Activision Blizzard’s first quarter earnings call earlier today, with Blizzard claiming that as of March 2011, WoW‘s playing population had “returned to pre-Cataclysm levels in the West.” Certainly the best way to say that numbers had dropped significantly, but that in itself isn’t anything to get excited over.

What is troubling is that in just five months since the release of its latest expansion, Blizzard has lost over 600,000 subscribers to rest at a player population of 11.4 million. Rather than hitting the panic button and interpreting the drop as a sign that fan interest is waning, Blizzard seems to be realizing that a sizable chunk of past players are just more interested in new content as opposed to leveling multiple characters or grinding out raids.

Even a game world as entertaining as that of Azeroth can lead to bouts of boredom, at least in the case of half a million WoW players. Blizzard is looking to remedy the problem by speeding up their lengthy development cycles, assuring investors that WoW fans simply go through new expansions faster than many others.

President and co-founder of Blizzard Michael Morhaime was quick to explain that faster development wouldn’t result in smaller or less-polished expansions, just faster timelines. When Blizzard  gave some details on their next expansion months ago, they made it clear that it would amount to more than just extra quests.

If an entirely new continent arrives sooner rather than later then the lost fans are sure to return, and while Blizzard definitely doesn’t have to worry about losing 5% of its player base, the next few years could prove to be even more damaging to World of Warcraft‘s community.

Even Blizzard is conceding that Diablo III will steal users from the world’s most profitable MMO, and the developer’s next MMO Titan is expected to be even bigger than WoW. New expansions will be required to keep WoW from becoming the less interesting of Blizzard’s properties, so fans can look forward to their subscription dollars being spent on more content.

Have you already seen your fill of Cataclysm, or are you one of the 11 million loyal fans still playing? And do you actually believe that Blizzard is going to be speeding up their less-than-rushed development tendencies?

World of Warcraft is available now for the PC.

Source: Kotaku, CVG

TAGS: Blizzard, Cataclysm, PC, World of Warcraft

  • hudson

    I hope it continues to drop, and i think this time next year it will have less than 11 million maybe as low as 10.5. That drop will be because of the games subscriber trend, and star wars tor will take away sum subs.

  • Elcobydos

    I am one of the players that has currently quit the game. My reason for quitting is simply that I got bored with the game. I think many players were burned out by the Wrath of the Lich King expansion.

  • Trevor

    I think people were hoping for the raiding to be as good as TBC.
    It has come to many peoples realisation that even though wow has the best endgame content out all of the mmos still we will always remember how epic TBC was.

  • Simon Kane

    I lasted about six months after Wrath and only less than a month after Cataclysm… Wow made a mistake in thinking that people would want to role racial alts and burn through another 85 levels of same ole same ole..

    This game needs new classes to keep players interested not just new content.. but WOW doesn’t want to have to rebalance their entire game mechanics to allow for these new classes..

    The truth is that Wow is on life support and Blizzard doesn’t want to admit it… When Star Wars and Guild Wars 2 come out, plus Skyrmm and Diablo 3, this game is going to hemorrhage customers.

  • dave

    Sadly for me Cata was a dismal update. it oversimplified the whole game experience. made a brand new toon to level upto 85. It was so simple to do took almost no time, no challenge at all. Bliaard even managed to take out half the hazards in most of the dungeons. Endgame was good, short lived though. Blizzard needs to reconsider the direction they’ve taken the game. They need to put challenge back into the full game not jut focus on endgame

  • Severo J.

    Let’s just hope these expansions really do come faster. I wasn’t too impressed with Cataclysm once I got into it, but after two years since the previous expansion I was excited about ANY new content. I was very dissappointed after the release, and let my subscription run out. I may go back sometime, but it upsets me to think that we might have to wait another two years to get more content! To me Cataclysm was only half an update, definitely on the same scale as TBC or even Wrath of the Lich King.

    The definitely need a new expansion again, much sooner, might even be good if, God forbid, they release one within a years time. Emerald Dream, or even a new continent on the other side of Azeroth, or even an ancient Kalimdor would be interesting new content. Perhaps even something no one has even thought of would be even better, and more intrigueing in the end.

    I really hope we don’t have to wait until 2012 for a follow up expansion, but we very well might be waiting that long. We’ll see.

  • Paul

    They need more end game content, but not because people are doing the current content too fast. Rather, they tried to stretch the content by making it more difficult, and the players rebelled and large numbers just quit.

    The money invested on revamping the low level zones appears to have been largely wasted. The revamp did very little to make the game “sticky”.

    BTW, the 600K figure is worldwide, including lots of low-value China subs. NA/EU subs (where they get 90+% of their revenue) are probably down more than that, both in absolute and percentage terms.

  • asilva

    After the huge and strong story-line from wotlk, people expected something even bigger, but blizzard did not deliver. In wotlk you had story-lines with trolls, scourge, elementals, humans, and this feeling you were part of something huge, a battle against evil itself. Now it just feels you are facing immaterial mobs, dropped there and there just for the sake of having more quests. Instead of improving, it was a step back. Also, content in wotlk was easier to go through (dungeon,raids) and the fact that everyone was walking around in epics meant that you had to have skill (if all are the same, only the ones with more skill will accomplish more). Now it seems, the 1% hard core players (not necessarily the most skilled) are the only ones enjoying the content. I loved TBC, even more Wotlk, but cataclysm is a step backwards and i simply hate it. And beware, the faster release cycles, means that more and more old content will be recycled. And blizzard are not the all knowing gods of mmos. Someone will come up with a better game one of this days and they will lose their cash cow. I do not understand why they dont make heroic raids only for the 1% hard core gamers and leave the normals easier to do like in wotlk. I am sick of elementals, i got sick of them on the first week of the pre-cata events (elemental invasion). It is not even new content since some bosses are recycled from old raids. Why did we pay for this?

  • Disgruntled

    This is exactly what many people warned them about when they treated us so badly during the RealID scuffle. The thoughtful, loyal people left when treated that way, and what they’ve got left are the addicts and the people who just pile on to every trend. Those people are not a stable business model, and churning out more expansions to please them means more investment for less return.

    Blizzard bought this when it flipped its long-term fans the bird and decided to sell us all for social networking trends. Social networking fans have the attention spans of mosquitos and just as much staying power.

  • FunkyTunk

    I am still playing Wow, yet I don’t see why people are ranting so on this game.

    You couldn’t make a better game, admit it.
    All those years in Wow were awesome.
    Rift is an insane copy of wow, with just some different graphics and stories. If you take a close look, only Lore and class system is different.
    Swtor may become Popular, yet It won’t top Wow.

  • dave

    WoW was an exceptional game, until Lich King and the total dumbibg down of the game. Cata was hated by me, I started a brand new toon and was amazed at how quickly i hit 85, even though i quested to get there. Everything was so simple, and the new 80 to 85 quests were mind numbingly simple. There are people out here who like a challenge, the ability to have their toon die because of lack of attention. My god, i could get into a fight and go mid-fight to the washroom, upon my return, my toon was still alive.
    BLIZZARD content and difficulty is needed, not the constant nerfing