World of Warcraft is losing subscribers

WoW subscribers Chart until 2009

Not to worry though, World Of Warcraft is doing just fine. WoW is still the best selling MMO by a mile. Furthermore,¬†Activision released mind-dazzling revenue numbers earlier today. So why such a (large) loss in subscribers? Well, the level they’re at now (+11 million) is pretty normal after a release of an expansion, granted the numbers are dropping faster than in previous expansions but that is mostly due to the fact that players are devouring content a lot faster than say in The Burning Crusade. Because the game is more oriented to the casual player, rather than to the (semi-) hardcore ones.

I myself recently stopped playing after 5 years. Why? Because I think it became boring. This brings us to a second and less positive explanation for the loss of suscribers. Since Cataclysm (and partially during Wrath Of The Lich King) I hear a lot of players complaining that the game is boring and extremely repetitive and catered to the casuals. I can certainly relate to that as it is the reason why I quit. I used to be a pretty avid WoW player, in a top 500 guild and one of the better Holy Paladins around. Bragging aside, it was extremely fun to beat encounters and get gear upgrades.

The constant need to upgrade your gear became extremely repetitive for me in the end. With every content patch new raid content was released with new boss fights (albeit with the same mechanics, fire = hot remember?) and new gear. So basically, you had to start over once a new patch was released. Until that point I was still enjoying the game to its fullest, mind you. Then, with the release of Wrath Of The Lich King Blizzard implemented the Heroic modes. They’re essentially the same bosses, with one or two extra mechanics and upgraded loot, which was in effect the same loot (same name, same look) with slightly better stats. This basically meant starting over again gearwise, with essentially the same encounters. I can certainly understand people getting bored of that.

Moving on to the third cause for the steady decline in subscriptions. Time to face the facts, World Of Warcraft is an aging game. It’s been around for 6 years or something like that so it’s only natural that players move on to different games after a while. Games who often learned a lot from WoW but added in new features, and better graphics. Fortunately for Blizzard no MMO has come to close to beating them, even though really valliant attempts have been made by DC Universe Online and Rift. Maybe we’ll see another dent in Blizzards subscription numbers when the new Star Wars MMO is released, who knows.

Now, what is Blizzard going to do to slow down, or halt the decline in subscriptions? Well, since a lot of players are burning through content they decided to just deliver more content. Morhaime said “We need to be faster at delivering content to players, and so that’s one of the reasons that we’re looking to decrease the amount of time in between expansions.”

I’m not sure this is the right approach, making people ‘start over’ more. Sure, new content always makes for surges in subscription figures, but the goal is to retain those subscribers is it not? Or am I missing the big picture here? Neither do I think that faster and more new content is such a good idea. In the end, they’ll end up rushing every new patch and expansion to a point where quantity takes over quality. Personally, I would prefer slower content releases in favour of better quality, which is what I came to expect of Blizzard after playing Warcraft, and World Of Warcraft. Blizzard delivers awesome gameplay AND stories, it would be a shame to see that take a turn for the worse …

Do you think the world famous MMO is approaching the end of its life, or do you think WoW is long from being written off? Let me know in the comment section below, it’s always interesting to hear other people’s views on this.

/Niels

~ by Niels Van Hellemont on May 10, 2011.

22 Responses to “World of Warcraft is losing subscribers”

  1. Nice article, and I agree with most. Especially the opinion that Faster is not the answer. Non-casuals sprinted the entire level range in days. There was no chance to enjoy levelling, including profession leveling.

    But I have a different opinion to what is the real death-blow. It’s also why i see an equal number of people complaining that Wow catered too much to the top players, compared to complaints it catered to casual players. to which it caters more is the wrong argument; Catyclysm caters to both. The problem is that it separated casuals form non-casuals.

    Raid leaders no longer needed the casual players to fill 25s (or 40s) once the 10s locked out the clamoring masses who wanted into the raid club. Inside the club has a VIP section, but nobody is on the floor. Everyone left.

  2. [...] Van Hellemont presents World of Warcraft is losing subscribers posted at The Grumbler, saying, “Following the news that World Of Warcraft lost over 500k [...]

  3. World of Warcraft has undergone such radical revision that many older players are disgruntled by the new mechanics. The talent trees force players into cookie-cutter roles that do not allow for creativity, differences in game play, niche roles, or just simple experimentation.

    By removing player choice in character creation (at least where such creation really counts) Blizzard has told its subscribers that they know what’s best. This hand-holding approach has many theory-craft players leaving.

    WoW is simply sad.

    • I can wholehearthedly agree with that, I’m one of those players that left. Even in Wotlk, theorycrafting for a Holy Paladin was so terribly redundant (and yet, people were still being retarded with their gems and enchants). Cataclysm hasn’t changed anything really, Not to mention what they did with raids. They managed to make normal modes so incredibly easy, and the transition to heroic is so steep many don’t even get to try. Not to mention the clear difference in difficulty in 10 or 25 man.

  4. the killer for wow will be its social side – too many moaning women and children play this game and behind a computer screen its hard to tell which is which – was a guild leader for 2 years until i got bitten by so called games friends be assured you have non.All players are interest in there selves non one else.

    • That’s the price that comes with animosity I guess. Though I must say I still have regular contact with people I met on WoW, but for the most part you’re right of course. Getting kicked out of dungeon parties because you don’t have this or that, or because you open your mouth and point out mistakes isn’t helping either.

  5. I only googled “losing subscribers” once I started seeing “play free” ads on every gaming website. Anyone who has played and no longer does realizes its not the dollar cost. Its the waste of life and time.

    • I disagree there, I had a great time on WoW and I met some awesome people. So it wasn’t really a waste of time for me. Again, moderation is key when playing though!

  6. not sure about that. The question is… why is everyone talking about leaving wow? and that is why i made this video. it si a youtube video named “Iggy talking about Warcraft Cataclysm problems ” or you can click in the link if you will : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=317DzlXVRjs

    I think wow is a awsome game. but something needs to change. A lot of peaple in my server quit the game for good. and even peaple say the subscriptions are back, we are having issues putting raids now, bcs there are just not many peaple out there.

    • Nice vid! You certainly make some good points.

      The game is too easy, but the step from normal to heroic is just too big, the majority of the playerbase never ever gets to see that content in the patch that it was intended.

  7. Besides the PVE dungeon aspects well explained above, the PVP is what eventually had me quit. I work long hours so random PVP was where I found some competitive enjoyment. But, every Battleground has become a joke, in regards to the multitude of AFK’ers, honor farmers, bots, etc.
    Furthermore, if you’re playing a healer, or if you’re simply guarding a base (an important, and seriously lacking responsiblity for a good team), you get less honor than an AFK’er parking himself near any fighting action.
    It all points to I think, Blizzard’s inability to take some of their $1.1B revenue and properly manage and balance not only PVE but also Random PVP.

    • I wasn’t much of a PvP’er and have little understanding of the state of it. However, when I did go in because I was bored I found myself healing my ass off to save a bunch of ungrateful gits who complain why I wasn’t there a second ago. Also, as you stated I got less honor than the average afk’er of which there are many.

      I suspect these problems are way more severe on populated, or pvp, servers. I guess I was still fairly lucky to be on Steamwheedle Cartel, a tiny realm where you knew beforehand how a game of pvp was going to turn out. Making half a premade and steamrolling over everyone was also fun.

  8. Started Playing when it first came out-for the sense of adventure, and the unknown.
    It has slowly and surely evolved into a parody of RL, replete with mundane shopping-list farming and assigning a number to value to items, instead of an entertaining story.

    Met a Blizzard Employee at a party, and asked them what Server they play on….they told Me that don’t play video games.

    Hey Blizz, Farming does not equal Adventure, no matter how fast You crank out the same rehashed content.

    I’m sure they have a re-hashed Dire Maul in the works next.

    The “Well, go play another game then” arrogant attitude the Typical Blizz designer has will eventually be replaced By “Are You Hiring? I worked on Wow”

    Story is King, Guys.

  9. Disagree with what you said regarding everything but the fact that the game is losing subscribers. Your explanations sound like the typical party line from Blizzard.

    Developers seem to have completely lost touch with their respective playerbase. The only reason there were so many “raiders” in Lich King is because the content was largely puggable. People want a game that fits into their own schedule, not one that they have to schedule in like a job. WoW was able to hit the 12 million mark by making most of the game accessible to anyone who wanted to see it. If you had a few minutes after work and before dinner, you could do a heroic or two to get points for gear. (Now if you PUG, you’ll do well to finish at all after two hours, 3 tanks and 2 healers later.) In Lich, you could be in a guild with friends, but PUG raids…now Blizzard encourages making your friendships in game based on what you can get out of it…and they wonder why the community has taken a nosedive.

    And as far as that community, the forums are full of complaints about player behaviour and Blizzard’s stance of indifference towards it.

    So yeah, speculating that Warcraft is losing subscribers because of easy content or lack of raids is like saying someone will have to get full dentures because they chipped a tooth.

  10. Actually they are down to 10.3 million players, a 10% loss over the previous 6 months, per Forbes magazine and Bizzards own statements.

    At that rate, adding SWTOR going live among other things, they’ll be below 9 or 8 million by the end of next year.

    It is like AOL going into its death spiral, they’ll deny it even as the game crumbles to a F2P kids game.

    You can only eat at Taco Bell so many times, before you realize the “new” food is just the old stuff redone, and wind-up at Chipolte.

    • Yes since the latest statements they released. This article, however, was released well before that after their first announcement.

      But yes, adding SWTOR will mean another chunk gets eatan away. Not that they’re making any less money with all the paid services and people who buy those silly pets.

  11. The simple fact is that most theorycrafters and hard core games are over the cookie cutter approach. Being a raid leader since the end of 2004 and running the raid nights (4 nights a week), I have seen the rise and fall of some great players, Some have quit as they had other commitments, most (including myself) were bored with repetitive nature of the content.

    When it was vanilla, there weren’t as many mechanics, although earning the gear to get to at least attempt the next level was important. My priest toon still has its legendary staff from Nax. (yes, there are only 50 in the world)

    BC was an improvement in mechanics overall and the content was challenging, there were drastic changes to gear and everyone had to get through it. That being said, people did at least see an ending in sight with the gear. BT was a challenge, although once geared was fairly easy to clear in 1 night. Sunwell was a good challenge and a theme that Blizzard should have followed more effectively.

    Wrath – well, let me introduce to you the consumerism of WOW.
    Content hard = NO
    Raids Hard = NO
    Mechanics increased = partially, although not to the same degree as BC.

    Now it brings me to Cataclysm. What can I say, I played 2 days of Cata and got bored. I was dragged along by my guild to level up and raid. The introduction of the 2 phased raiding schedule was a terrible idea. It broke the core mechanics of peoples experience. I will give you an example:

    25/40 man raiding –

    I used to ask my team leads (tank, dps and heals) to encourage chat with their teams to let people voice their opinions through their team rather than hitting it up with the whole raid. (meant I didn’t have to listen to every bad idea)… I was hooked into these in Vent/teamspeak and used to listen to the sub groups chat about rotations, positioning, people taking too much dmg etc…

    With the intro of phased 10/25’s you broke those teams in 1/2 or in my guilds case 1/3rds and you created splinter groups in the game. It caused guild tension when people didn’t get to go with others and it also caused problems when organizing 25 mans. (and there is alot of organizing)

    Outside of the repetitive content, the concerns with social interaction, this is the crux of the concern from my side.

    Dan
    Vanilla – Complete
    BC – Complete (inc sunwell)
    Wrath – Complete ( norm and heroic)
    Cata – Partially complete (norms done only)

    • That pretty much sums it up, thanks for your comment. The thing I dislike the most about Cata is the LFD and LFR system. The anonymity between players is astounding, if you don’t like a player just kick him and voila, a new player enters within a minute. I got terribly bored with the mechanic and it sucked the fun out of the game for me. I never did much raiding in Cata so I can’t speak for everyone but I found that once you had the most basic mechanic down you could just brainfart your way through fights. Being a healer I had to watch for mana in the first few weeks, but it soon became second nature to manage it more effectively … and so it got boring really quick.

      Even though wotlk was easier, I found I had still something to look forward to. That was mainly Val’anyr and the conclusion of the Lich King story line. But entering the new story was just underwhelming really.

      Sad but true.

      • Hi,

        great comments, I was an avid Wow’er until Cata. The loss of individuality when creating character talents blew me away. Not only did Blizz smash the trees, but the very makeup of what talents were left behind are simplistic and lame, I was awestruck. It has become all generic, I can’t believe blizzard doesnt simply give people a choice: select mage, ok, select fire, frost or arcane. why even have talents? we are all the same now, its really disturbing. I tried hard to love the cata content, but after a few months, I had to leave. I am a pvper, securing over 800,000 lifetime kills total on two mages. I have always loved my mage, and never thought about playing another class until Cata. I leveled a rogue level 1-85 in less than 100 hours playing time. I got 16k kills in pvp and called it quits. I was so sick of my mage i tried playing a rogue, remember I love my mage. LOVE.
        I loved being able to mess with talents and try to create a new path or experience in my gameplay, all a thing of the past:(, fire mage is fire mage, frost is a frost, we all know what talents u spec’d u had no other choice.

        I had a wonderful time, WOW was the best, and I will not play another mmorpg. RIP.

  12. [...] of Warcraft comes to mind as reference point to test the legitimacy of the cycle. If you look at a graph of WoW subscribers you can see that in July 2007 — when the Gartner hype cycle was released and had placed [...]

  13. I think the reason why subscriber numbers are dropping in wow (after cataclysm 4.3 at least) is the sheer repetitiveness and lack of new stuff.

    Let me tell you what I mean. Let’s say you just hit 85, what’s are your next moves? (ignoring dungeons)
    1. Do the LFR, killing off all 8 bosses in what essentially is a tank and spank borefest, which becomes annoying because of all the a..holes that are joining, and even worse when you see so many people afk or killing themselves so they don’t have to press 3 buttons during a fight.
    2. Do normal DS. Same 8 bosses, but you need to think a bit. No longer tank & spank, but you pretty much know how the fights will go.
    3. Do hardcore DS, There are quite a few new mechanics, but it’s basically the third time you go through the same content. If you know your class pretty well, know the boss mechanics and have decent gear, you can get 4/8 relatively easy (and that’s before the x% buff).

    See the problem? Going through the same content 3 times gets you bored fast. Sure, Blizz works a lot less in providing content for both casuals and hardcore players, and caters fairly well for both of them, but it severely reduces the lifetime of that expansion. For me cataclysm 4.3 lasted for 3 months, until I got 6/8 HC, and it’s been live for around 10 months if I’m not mistaking.

    Wotlk lasted a lot more for me (talking only about ICC), I played it for more than 6 months without getting bored.

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