The amount of players subscribing to World of Warcraft continues to fall and for many this is the sign of the end of game with many people stating that decline is signalling the end of Blizzard’s long serving MMO. The subscriber base currently sits at around 5.6 million players and while this is still a massive amount compared to it’s competitors it is still a far cry from the lofty heights of 11 million when the game was at it’s peak. Perhaps it is even more concerning that at the beginning of this year it still had an impressive 10 million people paying to play the game.
So why the decline? Many people blame the recent expansion, Warlords of Draenor, for the loss of subscribers. For the record I loved the expansion and still do but for a vast number of players the decisions to remove flying from the new zones, include a solitary player garrison that felt more like Farmville and simplifying the game further were choices that took away from the game instead of adding to it. Blizzard, as ever have listened to the responses to the content in WoD and reacted in a positive way, implementing flying in an upcoming patch and completely revamping the garrison system for the next expansion pack, Legion.
Others feel that the game is starting to show the signs of it’s age now. being almost 11 years old and still a market leader is a monumental achievement for a videogame, especially in this day and age but some players feel that it’s starting to show on the surface. New character models were implemented along with the launch of Warlords that went some way in addressing this and newer zones certainly look a whole lot better than older ones whilst still maintaining the same artistic style the game is famous for.
Another factor in the “great decline” is the age of the player base. Again, with a game that is 11 years old comes players who are 11 years older now than when the game launched. The masses of players who were in their late teens at high school and college when the game was in it’s infancy are now twenty and thirty somethings with families, homes and bills. A monthly subscription doesn’t always fit in alongside a grocery bill and rent payments. So you will find more players than ever playing the latest content while it’s fresh and then unsubscribing until the next instalment.
It’s also a wonder that Warcraft has lasted this long whilst so many free to play alternatives are out there. Other games that have tried the subscription route haven’t managed to go the distance and have folded down to free to play models like The Old Republic and Lord of the Rings Online. It’s more than likely going to happen to Warcraft in the end but for the moment even at 5 million subscribers it has more than enough strength to continue moving forward.
So in summary, I believe (and this is only an opinion piece, so you can take it or leave it) that the falling subscriber base for World of Warcraft is not only nothing to worry about but is also an expected path for this mammoth, aging game. It’s going to be around for years to come and will probably spawn a million more articles over the years about how it’s going to end.