As we get ready to enter the fall before a World of Warcraft expansion, fans and developers of the game would hope that old players would begin their return and some new players would start jumping onboard to get a feel for things before the new content arrives. With the announcements of special tie-in third-party hardware arriving and teasers for the upcoming film debuting at Comic-Con, WoW should be experiencing a bit of a renaissance just in time for Warlords of Draenor’s arrival. Unfortunately for Blizzard, the numbers don’t appear to point in that direction.
Despite the increase in players that Blizzard reported over the 2013 holiday season, it seems things are slowing down once again for the decade-old MMO. During the latest earnings call, Activision confirmed that the game has lost 800,000 subscribers between April 1 and June 30. That means that WoW had roughly 6.8 million subscribers at the end of June, bringing the community down to its lowest population since 2006.
Warlords of Draenor is likely going to arrive this fall, which should help bring the number of players back to a more respectable number for the game that is still the king of subscription-based MMOs. Historically, WoW has seen a spike in subscribers immediately following the release of every expansion pack. Blizzard will announce the release date for Warlords on August 14 and if it’s anything like the majority of previous releases, it will probably arrive sometime between September and November.
More so than any previous expansion pack, Warlords of Draenor is really focused on delivering an engaging experience that will appease old fans and bring in lots of new players. The game will deliver new end-game content, updated character models for the oldest races, and the ability for new players to bypass the first 90 levels with one character. Hopefully, for Blizzard’s sake, that will be enticing enough to bring the subscriber total somewhere closer to its 2010 peak at 12 million subscribers.
As players continue to walk away from the game (likely due to the subscription fee, aging content, and new-gen alternatives for MMOing), Blizzard really needs to step up its game to retain the existing audience. If the company delivers on its goal to release annual expansion packs, the continuous new content stream may be enough to keep fans engaged (and paying monthly fees to play). We’ll be interested to see how many new subscribers Warlords manages to pull in this year. One thing is for sure, we can all look forward to a pretty serious marketing campaign this fall that may rival the constant Panda commercials we all saw back in 2012 before Mists of Pandaria’s launch.
Do you think Warlords will help WoW get back on the right track or only temporarily stem the bleeding? Let us know in the comments.
World of Warcraft: Warlords of Draenor launches this fall for PC.
Follow Denny on Twitter @The_DFC.