Is World of Warcraft Really Dying?

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.


  1. We’ll know the truth come the next expansion. If it doesn’t get numbers like it used to, then it’s in decline. Since Blizzard isn’t going to publish subscriber loss numbers, it’s the only way to know. So we’ll just have to wait. Plus it will give time for games like SWTOR and GW2 to be out and see if they can retain customers, or just lose them like so many others.

  2. It’s absolutely ridiculous to call it dead, but it has bigger problems than ever before. And they’re not about the current subscription numbers.

    First of all, its player base has probably never been so unhappy and worried. There are numerous reasons for this: over-simplification of the game, player interaction (only through automated matchmaking systems), a lot of of main WoW devs moving to Titan, lack of true innovation, etc.

    Secondly, there are some really scary MMO titles on the horizon. If RIFT, a relatively modest game, managed to create all these waves, SW:TOR and GW2 will for sure create genuine typhoons. And this is just in the near future.

    I really don’t think WoW is dead or that it will have real problems in the next 3,4 years… but saying it has not yet reached its peak is a bit unrealistic in my opinion. I guess it could happen, but it would take a pretty impressive expansion pack from Blizzard, probably twice as good as their best one to date (whichever that was).

  3. Just for the record, I wrote my post first, and Syp’s post links to mine.

    So it wasn’t quite the simpering agreement on my part, which is what seems to have been painted here.

  4. Mynsc has it dead on.

    Cheif among those is that WoW is, and has been for a while, being run by the ‘B’ team. They also seem to have been given a fairly short leash. It’s not going to get better either. As titan becomes a bigger priority, WoW will become less so. EverQuest is still going after something like 13 years. WoW will last much longer than it will, but it will, very slowly, become less relavent.

    The point I never thought of that Mynsc pointed out… If Rift managed to cause some ripples in the WoW player base, the next big name MMO’s will do even more so.

  5. Blizzard people have saying a lot of things recently that sound like preparation for announcing bad WoW sub numbers in Q3. I’m guessing the Cataclysm rollout in China didn’t do very well.

    We’ll know by the Q3 call in early October, shortly before Blizzcon. If the numbers are bad, Blizzcon could be exceptionally interesting.

  6. 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

    You got that wrong in a couple of ways.

    First, the link you gave said that NetEase, which operates WoW in China, is #2, not that WoW is #2. NetEase operates a number of homegrown MMOs in addition to WoW.

    Secondly, the Q2 numbers DO include WoW in China. WotLK has been available in China for some time now. What Q3 will show is the reaction of China to Cataclysm.

  7. The problem. Look at facebook, free, yet the guy makes millions. Why? Because its all about reputation and signing contracts. WoW has enough hits on the online community to release completely free (as do most games/all games that argue they need $). Look at the cell phone and insurance market (other services that can be offered free as well). $15-$50 minimum a month. Look at text messaging. A huge technical service. .10 a text message. Why? Because if blizzard ook out a $1million loan with a 30 year pay off, that is about $1,500 a month pay off. $10 x 100 players = wroth it. $16 x 1 million players = the game has paid for itself 3 times over. You ARE ALL SUCKERS if you still play. People smart, that figured it out left. The market keeping it alive is full of noobs and rtards. Enjoy the fail.

  8. Why should anyone in the US care about numbers in China or Brazil? The real question for us is US subscription numbers, because that’s what affects our in-game experience. WoW could have a billion players on Venus but what difference does that make to Timmy in Wisconsin?

  9. If you play the game and enjoy doing it, and dont mind the $15/month sub fee,…who cares if someone else doesnt. People will play it cause they want too,. no one is holding a gun to their head at the keyboard and forcing them to play. Simply put, if you like the game, play it, if you dont like the game,. then dont play it, but dont make an ass of yourself and try to complain about every little thing, especially when you have absolutely no control over it.I believe that WoW has a large enough playerbase that the game will continue for quite sometime.So stop worrying what might happen next year or 5 yrs from now,. and just enjoy the game today.

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