Blizzard denies the veracity of a favorable report, stating that it does not discuss World of Warcraft subscriber numbers anymore as a company policy.
The success of World of Warcraft is such that it is unlikely to be replicated ever again, at least while video games remain in their current state before the next big technological advancement. World of Warcraft's sustained period of dominance while catering to millions of players for over a decade is simply unheard of, and Blizzard's deft hand has extended beyond just the sphere of video games when it comes to the Warcraft property - the Warcraft film became the most successful video game movie ever made earlier this summer. Love it or hate it, nearly everything World of Warcraft touches seems to turn to gold.
That trend continued this summer with the release of World of Warcraft: Legion, which sold 3.3 million copies at launch and matched the records it set when it was at its peak popularity in the late 2000s. A recent report appeared to solidify the expansion's success when it stated that World of Warcraft was back over 10 million subscribers, but apparently Blizzard disagrees. The developer, via PC Gamer, issued a statement regarding the report, which surfaced as part of an interview with game director Tom Chilton for Polish gaming magazine Pixel:
"This was a miquote, or some kind of misunderstanding on the part of the journalist...our policy for almost a year now is that we do not talk about subscriber numbers, and Tom did not do that with this publication."
While the report made sense to gamers considering the rave reviews World of Warcraft: Legion has received since its launch, in retrospect it's unlikely that the MMORPG has actually managed to surpass 10 million subscribers again. The last time Blizzard officially reported subscriber numbers for World of Warcraft was just under a year ago, with the population of paid subscribers estimated to be around 5.5 million. Even if Legion is the best expansion Blizzard has ever made for World of Warcraft, that kind of drastic shift seems unfeasible.
It's interesting to note that in the original interview with Chilton, the game director apparently identifies World of Warcraft's biggest competition as an "internal competitor" in Overwatch. The latter's burgeoning competitive scene and appeal to casual players has certainly been a strong selling point, but if Blizzard truly feels that way, it's intriguing that the developer considers its biggest threat to be its own properties.
That philosophy might not be inaccurate given Blizzard's incredible current library of games. World of Warcraft has come a long way since the Corrupted Blood Incident in its earliest days, but as much as things have changed, one thing has remained constant - it's at the top of the MMORPG heap, and its success is so dominant that a report being a few million subscribers off won't even change a thing.