Is World of Warcraft Really Dying?

Posted by on September 2, 2011 - 10 Comments »

The short answer is no, World of Warcraft is no where near being dead, but you wouldn’t know that by reading around the MMO blogosphere.

It seems this all stared in early August when it was revealed that WoW had lost 1 million subscribers since its peak from the Cataclysm expansion. Then about two weeks later it was “officially” announced on Bio Break that the WoW era has ended. What followed was a list of bloggers, some almost giddy at the thought of WoW dying, jumping on board with the idea that WoW has indeed past its prime and is on the long journey into decline and death.

Then came the Gamasutra interview, with Blizzard and WoW players, which has been used as confirmation that WoW is indeed on its way to the grave.

But not everyone agrees, Tobold was the first to argue against it and it seems he’s not alone, myself included.

In a recent interview with VideoGamer, WoW game director Tom Chilton had this to say about the recent decline in subscription numbers,

…as a new expansion comes out, we get a spike in subscribers and then it steadily trails down until the next expansion comes out. And so far with each expansion the spike up has been a little bit higher than the previous spikes up, so, and with Cataclysm, one of the things that made Cataclysm a little bit more dramatic is that I think that the idea of a rejuvenated WoW with all the kind of old-school re-doing got more re-activations than we normally would get when we release an expansion. But at the same time those are players that are the most likely to re-activate, check it out for a little bit, see what was different, and then turn again. So you see a bigger spike and a bigger drop afterwards.

Seems to be a valid argument, the more players that play WoW and leave, the bigger the spike when they come back for an expansion and the faster decline when they eventually leave again.

Let’s also not forget that WoW is now in China, where it’s already tied for second place in the online gaming market and whose numbers are not represented in those 11.1 million subscription numbers from the 2nd quarter. WoW is also expanding to Brazil later this year which should further bolster its numbers.

Not only does Blizzard not believe they are in decline, they don’t even thing they’ve hit their peak. In a recent interview with MCVUK, Blizzard’s VP of international Michael Ryde, stated

We are launching in Brazil this year and we have great expectations for that. The numbers you might be looking at from the end of the last quarter, that was before Cataclysm launched in China. That is a big part of our business going forward

While WoW is certainly losing subscribers, it’s far from dead or even decline.  When you have an expansion like Cataclysm that sells 4.7 million units in its first month, crushing the previous record also held by WoW, there’s absolutely no way you can claim that the game is in decline. Cataclysm might not have lived up to expectations, but that’s no reason to state it’s a dying game.