WoW Needs Expansion Badly – Subs Fall to 5.6 Million

Well now we know why Blizzard was keen to announce a new expansion the day after tomorrow, as subscription numbers are officially down to what was announced back in December of 2005, or 5.6 million.  That is a drop of 1.5 million subscribers from the 7.1 million number reported at the end of the first quarter, something of a rebuke to the long-term viability of the Warlords of Draenor garrison strategy, which saw subscribers peak at 10 million at launch.

Basically, 44% of WoW subscribers have walked away since the current expansion launched.

Chieftain Cheat Sheet

Chieftains lack the staying power of Pandas

So we have a day to indulge in “WoW is dying” hysteria before we are all swept off our collective feet and pledge ourselves anew to the promise of a fresh expansion in Azeroth.

The loss in subscribers was, once again, pinned largely on declines in Asia, purportedly driven by the popularity of Diablo III, which recently launched in China.  Diablo III has sold more than 30 million units world wide now, but is it really stealing from WoW? Blizzard refused to get pinned down on specifics despite direct questions on the investor call.

Still, given the actual financial numbers coming out of the Blizzard side of the house, which are at record highs, somebody is clearly spending money on their products.  The page for Blizzard from the presentation slide deck is as follows:

Blizzard Q2 2015 slide

Blizzard Q2 2015 slide

The slide deck and detailed financials can be found at the investor relations site.

The blurb at the top in blue is an attempt to say that monthly active users was up 50% over Q2 last year, which means that more people are playing Blizzard games than last year.

Hearthstone especially was mentioned multiple times during both the whole company overview and then again during the Blizzard specific segment of the call.  Once again though, its numbers are coyly lumped in with those of Destiny and Heroes of the Storm, for a combined lifetime total of $1.2 billion.

Still, even though I want to know how that really breaks out between the those games, it is a sizable amount of revenue for three titles.

Of course the big question now, beyond what the new expansion will contain, is when will it launch?  An expansion a year out, which is a pretty typical gap between announcement and launch for Blizzard, would no doubt see more subscriber losses as there is no new content planned for Warlords of Draenor.

And what do we even want out of the next expansion?  I am not sure I even know anymore.  Is there anything Blizz could do that wouldn’t annoy as many people as it pleased?

MMO Champion has a good subscriber chart embedded in their post if you want to see the subscriber line going up and down over the years.  I have all the numbers in a spreadsheet, but cannot make Excel behave the way they can.

And, finally, this is how the poll I put up last week fared.

174 respondents

174 respondents

I would call those who picked 5.5 million the “winners” I suppose.  The “other” response was 42.

9 thoughts on “WoW Needs Expansion Badly – Subs Fall to 5.6 Million

  1. Jidhari

    It is interesting that they lump those three titles together. One or all three are probably not performing well enough to break them out. If that 1.2b is tracking from the launch of the earliest game then 500m immediately disappears as I believe that was the amount Destiny generated on the first day of launch including preorders. Of course, 700 million is nothing to scoff at either so it is quite baffling that they would lump all three together.

    On HOTS – not a good sign when one of your bullet highlights for the game is that it launched with excitement from players and critics. lol. What hyped game doesn’t? They do not even have a number of accounts/users statistic for it? Even stranger.


  2. Jarhead

    You think WOW has 5.6M subs?

    Nope. These figures show that at the highest point in Q2 the game had 5.6M subs. So around March 2015 they had 5.6M subs.

    Assuming the same rate of decline(~28% per quarter) current subs are around 3.7M


  3. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    @Jarhead – Where did you pull that idea? Because the financials that they published quite clearly say that WoW “…ended the quarter with 5.6 million subscribers…” which seems to clearly indicated that was the number on June 30th. On March 31st they had 7.1 million subscribers, as reported in the Q1 2015 quarterly report. All of these documents are available online. Or are you alleging fraud on the part of Activision-Blizzard?


  4. Liore

    Although I incorrectly picked 6 million in the poll, the most surprising part of all of this for me is how poorly designed that slide is.


  5. tsuhelm

    @Liore Having to dig through company annual reports all day long its surprising which companies have well designed ARs and which do not! Some are UGLYYYYYYYYYYY!

    And some obscure companies produce works of art!


  6. SynCaine

    Yes Blizzard, all those people are going to D3, totally not going to FFXIV, now very likely the largest sub MMO out.

    That one slide is great though, makes it so easy to see which games are doing well (the ones with solid financial/sales numbers) and which ones are disasters (the ones talking about reception and such).


  7. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    @Liore – That is the inevitable result of giving each side of the house exactly one slide to sum up their entire business. It wasn’t so bad when Blizzard was just WoW, Diablo, and StarCraft. Now though they have six games plus BlizzCon to squeeze on the slide.

    Plus, unlike the Activision side of the house, which has tended to focus on just new releases in the past, plus something about Call of Duty, Blizz has six titles that are all in progress or are ongoing online affairs that have to be pushed and updated all the time. Destiny has changed that a bit for Activision, but they still don’t feel the need to talk about every game in their portfolio every quarter.

    @tsuhelm – I am going to bet that the Acti-Blizz annual report is actually very pretty. Though, that said, I have worked for several horrible companies that had quite lovely annual reports. I still have 16 shares in a company I worked for more than a decade back, which is just enough for them to send me their annual report every year, an artfully designed package of numbers and optimistic statements that must come from some alternate dimension of reality where currency works differently.


  8. Fenjay

    I picked 6 million, but I’m going to officially give myself the benefit of the doubt and say +- 0.4 million is pretty good and I got it in the ballpark (along with the rest of the 31% who agreed with me /highfive).

    I get what you are saying about it being hard to pick a direction that will annoy the least number of people. I think there is a good argument for slowing or stopping the gravy train (garrison loot being as good as raiding, legendaries 4 everyone) but that does seem like a risky proposition.

    Really interested to find out what they have in their back pocket for the next expansion.


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