Even ten years after World of Warcraft's initial launch, a major content addition to the game still manages to draw in new players and bring back some old ones. Despite subscription totals dropping by nearly another million users over the summer, it seems like a safe bet that Blizzard will see a spike in interest in the MMO when Warlords of Draenor arrives this November. Even with that upcoming publicity boost, the powerhouse developer is actually curbing its expectations about a WoW renaissance.
It's no secret that WoW can't remain the king of MMOs forever and it is already surprising to many people that the game has managed to get away with charging a $14.99 monthly fee consistently for the last decade. The math has been on Blizzard's side so far and proven that the game doesn't need to downgrade to a free-to-play model to remain profitable. Despite the strong revenue that WoW pulls in every month (even after dropping a million subscribers), Blizzard doesn't have any delusions about the game growing back to its former glory.
At its peak, WoW had around 12 million subscribers and today that total is somewhere closer to 6.8 million (the lowest since its launch in 2004). In an interview with MCV, Blizzard game designer Tom Chilton spoke about the game's decreasing subscription total...
“We really don’t know if it will grow again... It is possible, but I wouldn’t say it’s something that we expect. Our goal is to make the most compelling content we can.”
Hearing that the devs don't expect the game to grow may be a bit disheartening for fans or potential new players, but keep in mind that there are close to seven million current subscribers. Considering that SWTOR is still quite a financial success with one million monthly players it doesn't seem like the WoW community has much to worry about. There are plenty of people to play with (more than most MMOs) and plenty of users to develop new content for. If Blizzard can manage to sell six or seven million expansion packs at sixty dollars a pop every year or two, you can bet that the company will keep the game live as long as possible.
Chilton went on to address the future expansion packs...
“By building expansions, you are effectively building up barriers to people coming back. But by including the level 90 character with this expansion, it gives people the opportunity to jump right into the new content.”
The 90-level character boost should definitely help get new players up to speed in the Warlords era. Although there is an enormous amount of content currently available for WoW players, Blizzard does a pretty good job making everything except the latest expansion dirt cheap to try and make getting started a minimal financial burden.
Despite the goal to release annual expansion packs going forward, it's possible that we're witness the beginning of the end for World of Warcraft. With Warlords being released just a few days after BlizzCon 2014, it seems unlikely that the company will finally reveal its next major MMO and distract from the expansion's hype, but the time does seem about right. Like all Blizzard news, we won't know until the team is 100% ready to share.
Do you think WoW is past its prime? Do you think Blizzard plans to finally unveil its next MMO at BlizzCon this year? Let us know in the comments.
Warlords of Draenor releases November 13, 2014 for PC.
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