World of Warcraft is one of the greatest games ever made. Say what you want about it. But for the last 11 years its been the 900 pound gorilla of the MMO world. Since its release in 2004 every MMO has been compared to it, its drawn in enough players that over 100 million accounts exist for the game. The name Warcraft is now and will forever be synonymous with the genre it shaped, even if it didn't start there.
In the first quarter financial reports Activation revealed that WoW dropped from 10 million subscribers down to 7.1 million in just 6 months. WoW's subscriber base always has an ebb and a flow to it. Every time there is an expansion, the numbers skyrocket and usually about 8 or so months later they drop back down to only the most loyal players. This time it happened a bit sooner, but if you ask me its business as usual.
A lot of sites will tell you that this spells the end for Warcraft, but keep in mine, when the game first came out in 2004, it broke all records with sales of 200,000. This was more than they expected or needed to stay profitable at the time, so I think Blizzard is fine with the 7.1 million they have right now. I'm sure they would like more, but I don't expect them to dump the subscription model any time soon.
Oh how I wish they would though. I've subscribed to some form of MMO pretty consistently since Ultima Online came out in 1997. These days though, I feel like a subscription comes at a price different than just the $15 bucks that disappears each month. I feel like the cost is time. Whenever I play a game with a subscription I invariably play that game weather I feel like it or not. Something in my brain says, "You paid for this idiot, USE IT!" So since Guild Wars 2 came out, I've stayed away from Subscription games, except when I don't Wildstar lured me in with its promises, and it was a very fun game, but it was made for hardcore people, which I was at one point, I'm not any more.
So what does Warcraft need to do find the 3 million people somewhere in the break-room sofa? The same thing they always do! Make some new content, perhaps a new class, or new race, something that makes people want to check out that "new expansion smell". When will they do this? That's the bigger question. They tend to release an expansion every 1.5-2 years. My gut tells me that they had planned to release something to coincide with the movie in December, but then Disney dropped the bomb that is The Force Awakens on December and even Santa Claus doesn't want to compete with that. So the Warcraft movie was pushed 6 months.
Losing 3 million players in 6 months, isn't a devastating if you're next expansion is right around the corner, but when you still have a year to go before it comes out, that makes it a little harder pill to swallow.
I for one am not worried that the good folks at Blizzard are going to go hungry, they know how to make a good game, and they know how to appeal to the hearts and wallets of their players. The entire time I've been writing this, I'm fighting the urge to re-sub just to find out what I'm missing these days, and I'm positive that in the time it took me to write this at least a few people cancelled and a few people signed back up.