Ouch. WoW down another 1.3 million

As reported by MMO-Champion, the subscriber total was 8.3 million at the end of the quarter, a loss of 1.3 million subs since Q4 (which had its own 400k loss). For those keeping track at home, Blizzard had 9.1 million subs back on August 3rd, 2012, during an eight-month lull of zero content at the end of Cataclysm, i.e. pre-Mists of Pandaria. That is a net loss of 800k this expansion – with a 1.5 million sub rollercoaster in the middle – and the lowest subscriber count WoW has had since 2007.

By the way, RIP to MMOData.net, which has not made an update in nearly nine months now. How can we pontificate without graphs? Sigh.

I went and signed up to listen to the investor report as there was not a transcript available, wondering where MMO-Champ got the rest of those bullet points. Plus, you know, Press™:

Nothing could go wrong with this.

Nothing could go wrong with this.

To save yourself 38 minutes, just trust me when I confirm MMO-Champ got all the relevant information.

What did interest me though was hearing how ultra-conservative Activision Blizzard is. I mean, that sort of thing isn’t a particular trade secret, but when Bobby Kotick explained that the company wasn’t interested in the mobile sphere because the Top 10 titles change every year, I cocked an eyebrow. Call of Duty and WoW still have a lot of viable milking years ahead of them, but this is the same company that gushed about their $1 billion Skylanders franchise that didn’t even exist two years ago. If CoD: Ghost ends up pulling a Warfighter along with the further expected losses (their words) in WoW subs, you can almost imagine a scenario in which they conserve themselves right off a cliff by the end of this year.

But, alas, the money machines continue unabated.

Finally, I sort of chuckled at this part of the WoW presentation:

  • There has been less engagement by casual players.

Well… yeah. What did they imagine would happen when you release one of the most alt-unfriendly expansion in the history of the game? And then proceed to put everything behind a triple-gate of dailies and rep, all but remove leveling dungeons (only to put them back), and then essentially stop all production of 5m dungeons for the rest of the expansion? Oh, and don’t get me started on the continued embarrassment of no-pop servers languishing.

At this point, all I’m really interested in is Hearthstone (as hopefully a cheaper Magic: Online) and maybe Bungie’s new game; Titan has been too much of a cocktease for too long to even get a rise out of me anymore. Otherwise Activision-Blizzard might join the ranks of EA as a big-budget publisher who only produces one title that I am remotely interested in, with all the “risky” indie ventures soaking up the money I leave on the table.

And as Doone points out, that’s probably the best thing for everyone involved.

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Posted on May 9, 2013, in Commentary and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 10 Comments.

  1. I wonder if this means WoW will have only 1 more expansion in its future (if any more). Also, Kotick is bad for their future but that’s hardly surprising, heh. Thanks for listening to the report. Nice to see a confirmation of the data from a second source. We all know I won’t have time to listen to it any time soon :)

    • EQ had 20+ expansions with a fraction of the playerbase, so I have little doubt we’ll see more WoW far into the future. The only thing that could stop it would be the investors, perhaps. There also might be some minimum number of dollars necessary to pump out multi-raid expansions, so perhaps we’ll see smaller, more frequent expansions as the population continues winding down.

      • EQ expansions aren’t all that similar to what WoW does. Not at all, really. Aside from that, I was being a bit sarcastic, though I think expansions in WoW will probably be less and less luxurious/feature rich in the future. I have not been a subscriber to Mists, but I’ve kept up with updates. It’s a pretty different content delivery philosophy for this expansion (it’s changed the way the game is played almost totally). I suspect future ones will continue that trend, until expansions are less and less content.

  2. A good question is – if WoW is in it’s grandfather years, what impact will this have on mini businesses that have sprung up on the back of WoW? Think – MMO Champion, Elitist Jerks, guilds like Method, etc. I know that it can’t be tons of money that any of these ventures brings in, but is there a strong enough MMO out there anywhere that would allow these ventures to succeed like they have with WoW?

    • Indeed. The gold-guide “industry,” such as it is, has certainly taken a hit since Wrath days. I think MMO-Champ is well-positioned with Curse to simply transition to the next biggest thing, whatever that ends up being. Some of the smaller shops… maybe not so much. Lore from Tankspot got hired as a Blizzard CM just recently, and I’m not sure how that site will survive.

  3. I can’t figure their issue with dead servers. Their excuses for not doing the obvious like merging are that people like their names, which while not exactly a non-issue doesn’t seem like it should really pose this insurmountable challenge. I always figured the real reason is that merging servers stands as an admission of expectations that they don’t expect WoW to grow in the future.

    • The name issue being even a consideration in terms of server mergers simply drives me up a wall. What’s stopping them from, I dunno, using whatever system is in place for BGs, Arenas, Cross Realm Zones, and the goddamn forums? I don’t remember if Battletags were required, but there you go: I’m Azuriel.1243 and you can be Azuriel.3765. If they are worried about people being confused, why did they ever allow special character nonsense? You can make Azuriêl, Azuriël, Azurièl Azurïel, etc etc etc, right now. Ugh!

      It has to be about concern over “server merges” press releases. Nothing else makes any sense.

  4. Az, I would be interested in a follow up to your “Lost Bodies” post. To my mind, the fall of WoW coincides quite nicely with the rise in MOBOs and F2P.

    • Alas, without MMOData’s graphs, it would be difficult to get a handle on just how far this particular market has shrunk. I suspect you are correct though. Honestly, it’s probably a mirror of the decline in PC sales, insofar as those looking for a casual social experience are now better served than they have ever been in the past. Not everyone needs a PC when a tablet will do; similarly, not everyone needs a subscription MMO when a browser-based or F2P one will do.

  5. There is some population data here if you like. No graphs though

    http://www.wowprogress.com/realms/rank/eu/lang.en