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WoW Subscriptions Drop! Who is benefitting? May 10, 2011

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, EverQuest, EverQuest II, Rift, Sony Online Entertainment, World of Warcraft.
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According to Kotaku, World of Warcraft had 12 million subscribers in October of 2010. More that 12 million, actually.

Yesterday Mike Morhaime gave the subscription number for WoW as 11.4 million, a 5% drop.

With that small percentage, WoW has shed enough subscriptions since Cataclysm came out to populate two moderately successful or one very successful MMO, as measured by the scale that does not include WoW.

Of course, that drop might not be just in North America and The EU, but a good chunk no doubt are.

And if those players are off to play other MMOs such as Rift, it ought to be like a renaissance in the MMO market.  That number of players looking for a game could make a game a success.

I am sure that Rift has soaked up a fair number of those departing WoW, but I wonder who else is feeling the benefit of this change?

And then there all of those SOE players looking for a game these days.  That is another good chunk.

Comments»

1. Paul - May 10, 2011

According to Morhaime’s slide, WoW lost 600K subscribers in Q1 *in the west*. Sub loss is faster than in previous expansions, which we all kind of knew from activity tracking.

This is worse than just losing 600K subs overall, since a western sub is worth many times a chinese sub (Blizzard only makes a few dollars per month off the latter.) NA/EU accounts are WoW’s bread and butter.

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2. Wilhelm Arcturus - May 10, 2011

In the west? Ouch!

Well, Rift was well timed then, ready to soak up a good portion of those 600K plus the others that came from other games to try the newest version of the fantasy MMORPG theme.

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3. Jason - May 10, 2011

Rift and LotRO, doubly so with SOE’s major foulup. But I’d wager that a good majority of those subs didn’t go to another MMO, just gave up WoW without moving somewhere else.

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4. Anonymous - May 10, 2011

What Jason said tbh,

I’m one of those leavers this quarter and it was more mmo burn out than anything else, also to note the majority of mmo’s on the market are either a lot less polished than wow or have very similar cores so when people burn out in wow and want a different experience other similar games just aren’t as appealing as a complete change, say to an rts or even WoT

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5. bhagpuss - May 10, 2011

Here on these MMO blogs we’re inside the bubble looking out.

WoW came close to (but, in my opinion, never quite achieved) the status of pop-culture phenomenon. It never had the general media penetration of, say, Sonic the Hedgehog or Lara Croft, Tomb Raider, but it made it into the periphery of the awareness of the non-game playing Western population.

Pop culture phenomena like this have a limited lifespan. Usually they don’t go away, but they slip further and further into the background unless they are constantly refreshed. WoW really hasn’t had any means of refreshing interest beyond its rather infrequent expansions, which are in any case of very little media interest beyond a few shots of a queue of people outside a games store at midnight (which tends in any case to reinforce the image of WoW as something not of interest to the general public).

WoW isn’t fresh and new any more. It isn’t something you discover and tell your friends and they all get swept up by. It’s something you’re older brother used to play and grew out of so now he can patronize you over. It’s something your grannie plays so she can keep in touch with your seven-year old cousin. Fundamentally, WoW is at,or probably beyond, the point where it’s not cool any more even with its potential core audience.

Of course, WoW’s not going anywhere. It doesn’t need to be cool, hip, new or cutting edge to hold onto a large proportion of the subs it already has, or to pull in new, young, excited customers. But it won’t hold those new customers as long if the peer group pressure to play isn’t there, and short of some big, new, revitalizing agent like a big-budget, successful WoW movie or a wave of noughties nostalgia in a decade’s time, WoW isn’t going to be “the place to be” anytime soon.

Now, whether the people who used to play WoW, or would have played it but now never will, are going to go to any other MMO, that I doubt. I’d guess WoW is the high-water mark of MMOs until an advance in technology or underlying concepts allows for a step-change in the genre. I’d guess those departing WoW players are largely lost to the hobby, at least in the short term.

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6. Stabs - May 10, 2011

Did Rift soak up subs as a result of WoW’s burnout or did Rift cause WoW’s sub loss by being good enough to move for?

I’d probably still be playing WoW if Rift hadn’t come out.

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7. Angry Gamer - May 10, 2011

I too would reluctantly be playing wow if it were not for Rift.

I don’t think anyone is really benefiting right now. Much like Tobold they may be taking an MMORPG vacation in sunlit tank battlefields.

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8. Random Poster - May 10, 2011

The bit about “burning through the expansion faster than any previously” is the important part I think. I don’t think the majority of those who left were raiders, but more likely your casuals. What Blizzard did with cata was make it really fast and easy to level which seems great at first but then you run out of crap to do if you don’t raid. And Raiding in Cata while not on the same level as Vanilla or TBC is a bit more unforgiving than WotLK was. So now you have this mass of casuals who burned through everything with nothing to do. Blizzard would be very aware of what was happening and could even see what kind of player was leaving. I think it’s what led to the new 5 mans being added before Firelands was. More people are going to play through the 5 man content than will ever see ANY raid let alone Firelands.

I personally don’t have a problem with that, I raid but the guild I run is very laid back we didn’t get the people we needed for a full 10 man until about a month ago. Even so we are now in the position after just a month were we can start to work on the final bosses of all 3 raids (non heroic). Doesn’t mean I wasn’t happy to see new 5man content and I am enjoying them even if they are “old” most people didn’t see ZG or ZA, I was one of those who did but it fired up the nostalgia factor as opposed ot the “not again” factor.

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9. Random Poster - May 10, 2011

Hmmm I keep getting a duplicate comment error

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10. Paul - May 10, 2011

Did Rift soak up subs as a result of WoW’s burnout or did Rift cause WoW’s sub loss by being good enough to move for?

I’d probably still be playing WoW if Rift hadn’t come out.

For me, definitely the former. I was done with WoW before I tried RIFT. The RIFT beta I got into was well timed, though (it opened shortly after my WoW sub expired), and sucked me right in.

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11. Elumine - May 12, 2011

I left WoW about 2 years ago. I feel that its “decline” started somewhere in WotLK, namely after the novelty of achievements wore off, and the introduction of hard modes.

I can’t claim to be very knowledgeable about the state of the game in Cata, since I haven’t touched it for so long. I do still subscribe to several class/guild-related blogs however, and I’ve seen that while UI features (party finder, class mechanics, and other things that used to be available as addons but not part of the default UI) grow increasingly complex, the game itself really hasn’t (“more of the same”).

As of right now, the only game I’m playing is GW. I don’t anticipate paying for any other games until GW2 or D3 comes out.

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