Residents of Azeroth should still be able to team-up with enough dungeon crawlers to reclaim Orgrimmar from Garrosh Hellscream in the new Mists of Pandaria content patch, but revenue for Blizzard’s aging MMO is showing a steep downward trend. Blizzard may rapidly be approaching a time when the microtransaction models of World of Warcraft’s competitors start to look pretty appealing.
According to industry analysis firm Superdata Research, Blizzard’s nine-year-old MMO has experienced a 54 percent decrease in revenue over the last seven months. The Superdata report indicates that the WoW generated $93 million in April, which is quite a hit considering the game had pulled in $204 million just seven months earlier. Although that is definitely not an insignificant decrease in revenue for the game, it’s important to remember that the Mists of Pandaria expansion sold millions of copies last September, which inflated that month’s earnings.
Activision has also reported that during that seven month window, the iconic MMO saw 1.3 million subscribers call it quits. Game Rant reported on the drop in subscribers back in May, but the shrinking numbers seem to be a continuing trend. We already know that Blizzard has been testing an in-game store on a Public Test Realm, so the company may be looking to microtransactions to help make up for the drop in subscription and sales income.
In an MMO landscape where players are used to dropping cash here and there for in-game items, the lack of options outside of mounts and pets are most likely hurting Blizzard. Despite the requests of many players (and ex-players) that are sick of shelling out fifteen dollars per month to quest in Azeroth, the number crunchers at Superdata maintain that switching to a free-to-play model wouldn’t be a wise financial move for WoW. Thanks to the still fairly massive player base, the factors needed to make a switch to F2P profitable haven’t hit critical mass quite yet.
It seems more likely that we’ll see Blizzard introduce a hybrid-model, rather than diving headfirst into the F2P market. A model that allows the company to continue collecting subscription fees, but also offers players a wider variety of items to purchase would allow the company to make up some lost revenue without losing its current monthly income.
Standing by the old-school subscription model while surrounded by a number of high quality F2P competitors is a bold move that not many MMOs could pull off. Though many members of WoW’s loyal fan-base have been dropping fifteen bucks a month for nearly a decade at this point, so if anyone could successfully cash in on a hybrid-model, it’s probably Blizzard.
Despite the shrinking market for subscription-based MMOs, The Elder Scrolls Online is prepared to follow in WoW’s footsteps and launch with a $15 per month fee. MMO fans are already taking bets on how long the upcoming next-gen MMO will last before tweaking its subscription model.
World of Warcraft is currently available for Mac and PC.
Source: Superdata Research
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