WoW Subscriptions Drop by 800K, But the Money Keeps Rolling In

Activision-Blizzard got out in front of the press today to talk about quarterly results.


In an unsurprising turn of events, World of Warcraft subscriptions dropped from 7.6 million in Q1 to 6.8 million in Q2 of 2014 as the long wait for Warlords of Draenor continued.  The last patch, Siege of Orgrimmar, is going to be celebrating its anniversary soon.

The availability of the WoD pre-purchase and the immediately available insta-90 boost for a single character did not hold the line on subscription front as much as I thought it would.  My working theory was, “Who pre-purchases and expansion then unsubscribes from a game?”

Or maybe the pre-purchase and insta-boost did help.  The company said that most of their subscription losses were in Asia.  Specifically:

As of June 30, 2014, Blizzard Entertainment’s World of Warcraft remains the #1 subscription-based MMORPG, with approximately 6.8 million subscribers. There was a decline in subscribers quarter over quarter, which was disproportionately concentrated in the East and was similar to the seasonal decline experienced during the second quarter of 2012, prior to the launch of the most recent expansion later that year.

But then they always seem to point to Asia when there are losses, to the point that I wonder if there are any customers left there.  But there was no pre-purchase over there.  And Activision-Blizzard did bring in $658 million for the quarter, up $50 million from the same period last year, with a record 73% of those dollars coming in via digital sources.  That is a lot of people buying the Diablo III expansion, digital versions of the latest Call of Duty, and the Warlords of Draenor pre-purchase, which topped the 1.5 million mark.  That is about $75 million in the bank for Blizzard and so far they can only give us a date for when they will tell us the date the expansion will likely release.

Slideshow Highlights for Blizzard

Slideshow Highlights for Blizzard

Now the question will be how will the subscriber base fare with Warlords of Draenor still clearly in the fourth quarter of this year.  It has been a long summer and while the beta will no doubt spark some interest, it will likely take something more to hold the line, much less boost numbers.

8 thoughts on “WoW Subscriptions Drop by 800K, But the Money Keeps Rolling In

  1. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    Math is hard. My original title just said 6.8 million subscribers, but then I changed it at the last second, which is always the hallmark of errors. And then WordPress was doing server updates which kept kicking me out as I tried to fix it. Bleh.

    On the bright side, the server updates kept this from getting posted to Twitter or Google+, so I am only a localized illiterate for the moment.


  2. Jenks

    LOL, our secret

    There is something about 36 – 28 (whatever first number, but 6 – 8) that makes everyone make that mistake now and then. I know I do it, and I hear sportscasters do it occasionally. It’s like a weird, ultra specific form of numbers dyslexia.

    Actually on topic:
    My WoW sub is active even though I haven’t played it in 2 months, and I haven’t preordered WoD yet although I intend to. I think I can be written off in some sort of ‘other’ demographic. I’m in a file somewhere in Blizzard HQ labeled “of least concern.”


  3. bhagpuss

    Why, exactly, does Blizzard find it so impossible to keep up a flow of regular, new content between major expansions? Just about every other MMO I can think of, sub or F2P alike, adds new content at the very least quarterly, more frequently monthly. Since GW2 began the Living Story well over a year ago plenty of MMOs have attempted to offer something more than just once a month.

    Just how expensive or difficult could it be to come up with something new every month that would keep subscribers from pressing that “Unsubscribe” button? Why don’t they do it?


  4. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    @Bhagpuss – Today Keen has a post up where he takes this all as some sort of sign that Blizzard is going to let WoW go, that it is all too much work to handle so they want to be done with.

    I find this patently ridiculous. No company willingly lets their market dominating money machine lapse. Never.

    Instead, I think this whole gap between content is far more a sign of the problem with being a market leader. When you are the top dog, your outlook becomes less focused on moving forward and more about holding your ground and keeping the money flowing in by the ton.

    So as I see it, Blizzard would rather do nothing and lose some customers than risk screwing up and potentially lose a lot more.

    Add in that Blizzard is traditionally a very conservative company when it comes to change… they like to swipe features that others have successfully taken risks with… and they are somewhat hemmed in by their own culture.

    I am not saying this is a good thing. SOE seems to survive while lurching around the market like a drunk on a bender as often as not. But SOE is also somewhat diversified, with a pile of smaller games. They tend screw things up one game at a time before fixing things and moving on. Screwing up WoW would have a huge impact on Acti-Blizz during any quarter when they were not launching another Call of Duty remake.


  5. BlackDragon

    Just chiming in – I’m from Asia, and I’m still playing =) Although it’s just to log in, pick up the free honors from Krasarang elite mobs, do dailies on my lowbie Pandaren monk and a little bit of TI.


  6. Matt

    I also am still subscribed, but not in Asia. I should finish my goal of every class at max level about the time they raise the cap again. I wonder about the psychology of unsubscribing between patches. The 15 dollars a month is basically pocket change for me, so there really is no reason to unsubscribe unless I stopped being even remotely interested in the game or I was trying to make some kind of statement.


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