World Of Warcraft Suffers Post-Cataclysmic Drop In Subscriptions

World Of Warcraft Suffers Post-Cataclysmic Drop In Subscriptions

Six months after buzz for the Cataclysm expansion drove World of Warcraft numbers to an all-time high, Blizzard reports the lowest subscription figures for the massively multiplayer game since December of 2008.

During the Activision Blizzard first quarter 2011 financial results conference call today, Blizzard president and co-founder Mike Morhaime told us that as of March of this year, World of Warcraft numbers had “returned to pre-Cataclysm levels in the West”, which is a rather nice way of saying dropped considerably.

In October 2010, two months before the release of the Cataclysm expansion pack, Blizzard reported that World of Warcraft had exceeded 12 million subscribers. Today Morhaime gave a figure of 11.4 million. That’s 600,000 subscribers gone.

Morhaime said that subscriptions had returned to pre-Cataclysm levels. They’ve nearly dropped to pre-Wrath of the Lich King levels, to be accurate. A month after the second expansion pack’s November 2008 release, subscription rates hit 11.5 million. A little over two months’ prior they had just hit 11 million.

Of course we’ve got to mind the gap. It’s highly likely that in the nearly two years separating Wrath of the Lich King and Cataclysm the numbers dropped below 11.5 million and Blizzard simply hadn’t reported it.

Still, the numbers are somewhat discouraging. Going strictly by the figures we do have, World of Warcraft lost 600,000 players shortly after the release of a major expansion pack.

I wouldn’t dig a grave for World of Warcraft any time soon, however. Considering there are big-name MMO titles out there operating with one one-hundredth of the subscriber base, the world of Azeroth will be in fine shape for years to come.


  • My server is 50% of what is was after cata’s release. This doesnt really come as a suprise after they rehased so much stuff and pawned it off as new content

  • the big thing that took alot of the subs was rift, only a small amount left because of “rehased content”.

    • Yeah. My guild is full of people who left around the time Rift come out. Although I think Rift was more of a catalyst than the actual cause of hte drop. We’ve got a large chunk that went off and played Rift for about three weeks, then another large chunk that stopped playing during that three weeks when it looked like the guild was slowing down. By the end of those three weeks we were all sick of Rift (most of us didn’t even make it to 50). About half of us returned from Rift and only about a quarter of those started playing Warcraft again the way we used to (the rest becoming really casual). Personally I don’t play unless I’m raiding.
      The interesting thing to note is how many left the game rather than just finding another guild. I think Rift just caused people to realise they weren’t having fun in Warcraft.

  • Yeah, I’m one of those 600 thou. I must have played WoW for about 10 hours when I re-subscribed/bought Cata. The interest isn’t there for me anymore, WoW has turned into a “nostalgia” game for me, I still miss the fond memories of level 60 cap and then BC first coming out.

    • im with ya buddy, for me WoW will never be better then the first couple of months I spent playing my night elf druid, the appeal of this massive mysterious world and i felt a real connection with my character
      now it feels like a chore, alot of the magic is gone, its just another game now 🙁

  • I just resubed. Having fun but taking it real slow and tbh not meeting that many other people. It si kinda wierd.

  • I think that for a lot of people, they resubbed, played to the new level cap and tried the new content then got bored with it all and cancelled again. I know I did! I love Azeroth and have nothing against WoW, its an awesome game and I do enjoy playing it in spurts, but it can get tedious to start new characters from scratch and doing the same dungeons/reputation grinding over and over loses its appeal quickly.

  • I got into this game shortly after Cata came out, hit level 85, geared up, realized the community sucked, and canceled my sub.
    Blizzard seems to make it too easy for the socially incompetent to get away with a variety of things. One fond instance comes to mind where a player was AFK for an entire instance – and when we tried to kick him we were advised he was un-kickable for another 2 hours. Why?
    Things like that give the impression that Blizzard are really only interested in the subscription fee. The amount of times I saw models re-skinned over and over got a bit frustrating.

    • The whole not being able to kick a person for 2 hours is bullshit. But it also removed the possibility of people just being able to boot someone for no reason so they could say have a friend or fellow guild member join them.

      Usually if you wipe you can kick said person after 3-4 mins of wiping. I still think you should be able to kick someone who has been AFK for more than 5-10 minutes. But yeah I agree, it’s caused a lot of trouble with me & mates when we get someone who just can’t follow instructions or AFK for half the dungeon (had that happen in a normal 85, thank god it wasn’t heroic.)

  • After four years away from WoW I resubscribed in early March, chose a new server and started from scratch.
    I went hard for about a month but I have only played a few times in the past three weeks.
    Sometimes I feel like Im the only one on the server. I wont see another player for hours unless I head to a major city.

  • I resub when Cata came out, took a new Character to Level 70, only met about 5 people along the way.

    For a MMO, you sure don’t see a like of people.

  • Is this related to Kotics plans to annualise WoW expansions?

    Also, these numbers were still enough to help bring in 500+ million in profit for Acti-Blizzard.

  • Still having 11.5 million subscribers is still pretty massive, regardless of how Kotaku are saying “massive drop in subscription numbers”.

    I suspect a lot of people have stopped playing (and I mean a LOT of people) but they havent brought themselves to cancel their subscriptions yet.

  • “Discouraging”? Hardly. Maybe those 600,000 moved on to a different MMO and we’ll finally start seeing some competition in this market meet some success. Better choice for the prospective player, more diverse range of online worlds, increased competition leading to more innovation – I fail to see how this is bad for anyone but a Blizzard stakeholder.

  • Of course the subscriptions would peak when a fresh new expansion is coming out.

    I doubt the numbers will get any better, WoW’s plateaued. Anyone who could or would play WoW has likely already had their fill, or one of the 11.4.

    Even on top of new content, WoW is still WoW and it’s hard to keep yourself interested after 6-odd years.

  • I used to play daily – work, play and sleep.

    I was part of a tight, Melbourne base guild and we were all friends external to the game. Had a falling out with a couple of members and left all together pre-cata.

    The guild leader and officers, some of my closest friends, all stepped down, being bored of the game or getting irritated by the ‘hardcore’ players who didn’t work and only played WoW.

    Personally, even without the drama of the guild, I had gotten bored. The Warcraft universe is full of backstory however does not have a driving storyline so it becomes tedious.

    I tried playing again recently, the game I think has alienated a lot of it’s fanbase with the changes to the game. I jumped on my level 80 characters and had all these talent points to dispense and most groups will expect you to have a certain build or they won’t be happy playing with you.

    For me, I feel that it’s a completely different game, one that is of the previous generation of mmo. Even the quirky missions just feel gimmicky.

  • I played since vanilla, raided all the major content with a succesful guild, one of the few that has sustained since release.
    But I dropped off not because of the conetnt, i find it still a fun game, but the way blizz designed the raids and what is required to progress. nerfing helaers, my main role since BC, and a a druid really hurt the fun i had in the game, and the pressure on us to perform was massive.
    I’m now levelling up a mage from scratch, having a bit more fun, 2 accounts active out of 4 (had to get recruit afriend mounts without pestering those i had playing already and those not interested :P), the game will survive for a long time, they have a formula a look and feel to the game that will keep people coming back.

  • Im also one of the 600k. The reason why i stopped was that the game just isint interesting anymore. I played it from the middle of Wotlk and it was alright but soon it just became a mindless grind for badges and when cata came out PvP just went down the toilet cmn 150k hp??? No fun in that either anymore like in vanilla and bc where you could oneshot and be a rogue :D.
    Overall WoW is going down if not with this expansion then with the next for sure

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