Considered the standard in MMORPGs since its release and explosive success in 2004, Blizzard Entertainment’s World of Warcraft has successfully weathered close to a decade’s worth of potential usurpers (oftentimes billing themselves as WOW-killers) and remained at the top of the heap by an incredibly healthy margin. However, there’s one opponent that it seems even the high fantasy juggernaut is vulnerable to: time.
Since hitting its peak at 12 million worldwide subscribers in October 2010 WOW‘s been on a decline – and considering its age this really isn’t much of a surprise – but what’s really taken us by surprise has been the speed at which it’s shed subscriptions: The first loss came in Q2 of last year, which saw the total drop a comparatively manageable 600,000 to 11.4 million, then a steady trickle down to 10.2 million as of last quarter, and just today Blizzard revealed its current subscriber base totaled only 9.1 million.
The developer seems to believe that this just a setback that Mists of Pandaria will counteract, but we’re more of the opinion that time and an aging business model have finally caught up with WOW. It made an attempt to attract the free-to-play crowd with a heavily-advertised campaign for free play through level 20, but even in the face of new content the numbers seem to indicate that players are starting to prefer the F2P alternative in growing numbers. We’re interested to see what the expansion will do for these numbers come September.