Why World Of Warcraft Lost So Many Subscribers

Why World of Warcraft Lost So Many Subscribers

World of Warcraft subscriptions are down from 10 million to 7.1 million, Blizzard said during a financial earnings call yesterday. A record amount of people unsubscribed in the first three months of this year.

This drop is particularly unusual because it happened right after a huge increase in subscribers. MMO-Champion's graph shows the timeline well: A lot of people jumped into the game for the expansion pack Warlords of Draenor in November and a lot of them left a few months later.

Why World of Warcraft Lost So Many Subscribers

Graph: MMO-Champion

And the reasons for a huge drop like this? While the graph above might suggest the expansion is simply bad and people are fleeing, that might not be the case. World of Warcraft is 10 years old now, so an overall decline in subscriber numbers is nothing new. The hype for the latest expansion was also really huge. One big selling point was the character booster, which would let anyone — both new and returning players — immediately leap to level 90, no grinding required. That was a huge hook both for lapsed WoW fans and curious newcomers. But once they tried out the endgame, many of those fans likely left.

The lack of quality endgame content is an issue. Once you hit level 100, there's not a lot to do: there are daily Garrison chores, two raids, and a couple of daily quests. These are great, but not enough to keep people around for months. Draenor lacks the type of cool endgame content that worked so well in previous expansions: dungeons and PvP aren't worth doing, and there aren't many daily quest hubs. The paper-thin patch 6.1 hasn't really added anything big, either.

So maybe that's why so many people have left. There's a reason to be optimistic, though: Tanaan Jungle and the Shipyard in patch 6.2 both look enormous, and hopefully they will help shake things up.


    To me it's simpler than that - it's a ten year old game. People are moving on.

      And it looks like balls now. Whenever I see a screenshot my eyes bleed these days.

        Even some of the new content is visually god awful, I see some of the textures for armor and want to barf.

        It must be just about time to take the old sad dog around the back shed and prepare for a new happy pup. Cmon blizz i bet you got something hidden up that sleeve of yours.

    I miss vanilla WoW...I had some good times in the beta and post beta.

      The ancient gates of Ahn'Qiraj open, revealing the horrors of a forgotten war...

      Vanilla was great. It just wasnt the same when the expansions started coming out.

    I recently started playing again to have a look. I think this patch has the most content of any expansion before it... (I haven't raided yet). There's so much to do it's overwhelming. And it's different for every character due to the choices in how you build your garrison.
    There's heaps of dungeons and a whole new raid next patch...
    I don't really agree with these article at all. I've only been playing for less than a month recently but I much prefer the current set up than MoP

      The levelling experience in WOD is amazing... But once you hit 100 the game grinds to a stop... Once you do all the heroic dungeons there's really not much point to go back and re-do them... If you've done the raids for the week then you really only have your Garrison to farm and that gets fairly tedious after a while.

      I wonder if WoW is now just suffering from the same thing most other games are... Difficult release cycles... As games engines are getting more and more complicated it gets harder to create lots of balanced and relatively bug free content... You look at the amount of dungeons and raids from the previous expansions and there have been less and less with each release...

        I just think it's catering more and more to a casual game play style.
        I used to put in 3nights of 3-4 hours of raiding each week... That's basically a part time job...
        I guess I'm not looking for that amount of effort anymore so I'm happy with a few dungeons and some pick up raids or LFR.
        That's why I think the current level of content is fine.... there's still lots of other stuff to do.. heaps of questing, lots of story mission, pet battle stuff, looking after the garrison.
        I think they've found a good mix. It might not be to the taste of super hardcore players but works for me. I used to hate the mandatory 25 daily quests that had to be done before... that's like an extra hour or 2 each day. At least with the garrison stuff, it's quick, all in the one spot, and some of the barn and stable stuff is fun. Or daily dungeon quests.
        Of course, once you out gear all that stuff and need to farm nothing but raids it will slow down.... but that being said, I don't think that's ever changed. If you're pushing the last 10-20 item levels gear wise, you're always going to be chasing the top level raid and pretty much nothing else.

          It's just the opposite. They have more teams dedicated to balancing the Mythic level raids than they dedicate to anything else. Less than 5% of the player base actually completes the end game Mythic content. They don't care about the casual player or the good player, or even the grind from base-100 to godly Mythic geared character. All they care about is 2 fat American guilds and a ton of Koreans.

    For a PvE player, once you get past that initial leveling and the LFR raiding, the time sink requirement takes a serious turn. If you want to raid heroic or higher you have to be committed and patient. The core players who are committed and patient make up a large share of the remaining subscribers once we see that subscriber graph take a nosedive.

    WoW is a daunting game for new players (just ask Mark Serrels!) and I believe Blizz is clearly trying to lure the millions of previous addicts. I played a LOT of WoW but was a returning player for Draenor after skipping most of Pandaria. Even for a returning player it takes some time settle back in. Relearning your chosen class mechanics and stats, understanding how things in the world have changed, and realising your stored fortune from 3 years is now the equivalent of a small bucket of chicken feed is difficult to get past. There's just so much on offer in gaming these days that ignoring the rest to commit what little gaming time you have to play WoW was only appealing to me while the content was fresh.

    Last edited 08/05/15 9:04 am

      Yeah, my main is a Aff Warlock.

      Every time I come back it's a different damn class mechanic generally making it harder or more boring and see the world full of Hunters running around PEWPEWing everything.

      I bought MoP but quit. Came back for Draenor but now feel like I missed nicer levelling zones in MoP. I usually hit 90 by the end of the first MoP zone.

      Exactly waht @FiCan said. I played a lot of wow through LK to half way to cata, skipped MoP an came back for WoD purely for the lore/story. I've got 2 characters to cap (100) and now for weeks ive been doing LRF (terrible drop rate) and doing part time 10man raids with the guild.
      on top of that managing the garrison/followers theres a quite a bit of micro management.

      Problem is i dont want to even level another character because unlike the previous expacs there is no flying, and that adds a lot of timing just getting around, this is something that really puts me off. usually when i get bored or done with all my raiding for the week I'd level up another character, but now... i just CBF.

        Heirlooms can be upgraded to level 100 now and basically you can spend 2 to 3 good days playing and get to 100.

    I went back to WoW after 4 months away. I thought I was just suffering burnout from playing for 6 years, plus the temptation to pay for a months subscription with the in-game gold I had acquired was too tempting to pass up.

    Outside of leveling my Mage, I haven't had much fun. I jump on my two level 100 characters and check their Garrison stuff, raid with them once a week (through all 7 LFR wings, both guilds disbanded while I was gone) and that's it. I'm hoping 6.2 comes very soon so I'll get to see that content before my sub runs up again.

    So there is YET another thing where the writers at Kotaku dont get all the information before writing and posting stories.

    So the subscriber base has fallen almost 3million people, but that doesn't mean that the player base has lost those 3 million people. With the release of the WoW time Token in the game for gold, there (im sure) are probably many people who have canceled their actual sub to pay for their time by spending the excess amount of gold they have. The token i believe cost around 20k to 30k gold at most, most of the time. I know my self i have almost 600k gold i could easily buy alot of time in game with. yes these tokens are bought and paid for by other players, BUT Blizzard did say that the people who are currently playing the game on Token Time were not in the subscriber count. Read it on MMO Champion.

    Gergo Vas even stated the chart and that there was information gathered off of MMO Champion, yet he didnt include anywhere in his article about the time tokens which is stated on MMO-Champ. So this is another Fail in writing. Just wish the head Kotaku cheif editor dude or whatever would look at some of the sources where things come from with their writers and not let them post 80% complete storys.... Or less

      All active accounts are counted in a month's "subscribers" list. Blizz did say somewhere recently that the tokens were not counted in subscriber count information as they had only launched it in Q2. There was a little confusion around it, but it's clear enough for me that all active accounts have a subscription, regardless of the method of payment.

      Good point. Very interesting.
      Leaves me with a question though.

      I thought it was only very recent that it would actually have a sub impact. The massive drop is between December and March, but the token only came out in April, right?

      I'm not sure on the mechanics of it... People who wish to use tokens had to have an active sub at the time that they activate the game-time from the token, right? You can't log in on an inactive account, buy a token from the AH and use that to reactivate fully?

      I'd have thought that this would mean a major up-swing in subs temporarily while people reactivate long enough to log in and buy a token with gold. At the very least, I'd have thought it'd mean people would've held onto their subs through March while waiting for the token to come out in April.
      3 million's a lot in that time.

      Will have to disagree on this point because i believe you have not counted for two things:

      1) On MMO Champion it clearly states that WoW tokens were not taken into account here because they were not released until Q2 - which means that this data was collected BEFORE tokens came into effect so they have no bearing on this data making your argument at this time null.

      2) it is my belief that subscriber numbers are derived from scanning accounts with an active subscription at the time of data collection. So this means that accounts that are flagged as "Subscribed" count as a subscriber - this would include those accounts using game time from tokens as they are no less of a subscriber then those paying with real money.

      I expect a slight fall in the next quarter with sub numbers but nowhere near this bad for when the tokens are taken into account.

      So i guess in this case Mr. Vas was correct in leaving out tokens from this because they have absolutely no relevance on this data - maybe you should do some more research before mindlessly attacking people?

      Last edited 08/05/15 11:50 am

    I rejoined to play with friends. WoD is a great expansion and I really enjoyed returning to WoW after a 4 year absence. Unfortunately I'm just over the entire MMO genre and stopped again 2 months ago. I loved what Blizzard did and enjoyed Highmaul immensely. I wish my friends good luck with the future content but I'm out.

    For me who primarily plays for the pvp I left because ashran was required for progression but 3 months into the xpac the queue time was still over 12 hrs and they had no desire to fix it.

    I'm subbed but not playing. I always forget to unsub.

    I enjoyed WoD and the quest lines, the new mechanics, the garrison and quality of life improvements etc, but I'm kind of frustrated with how growing your power as a character is inextricably linked to raiding.

    That's just not an activity I enjoy very much, if at all, but it's the only way to keep growing in power like when you were levelling. So it becomes an obligation. And nothing kills fun faster than doing things you don't enjoy because of obligation.

    Also, the garrison was fun for a long time, but eventually it starts feeling like one of those shitty F2P mobile games. Login, collect your resources, queue up your orders, log back out. Do whatever busywork clears out the bag space. Worse is that it's not account-wide, so while there are some nice perks and bonuses to being able to have a variety with your alts, it also increases the amount of maintenance/homework you're doing in every play session.

    Whatever, I'm not playing. They can see that. They keep some pretty crazy metrics. I'm sure they draw their own conclusions from that. They'll correct course again, as usual.

      I believe in 6.2 they are bring out Mythic level 5 man dungeons which drop loot of a similar level to mythic raids.
      I'm really looking forward to this because I can enjoy the game (to it's max) with just a few friends instead of relying on 5-7 other strangers (who usually suck).
      If they make 5 mans viable progression just like they did when they split 10/25 raids then that will make me very happy.
      Guild organisation and drama is just too much work. I just want to kill shit, be challenged and not have to dump 20+hours into the game to progress.

    WoD has been the most underwhelming expansion ever. I always resub for a new expansion but never have I unsubbed so fast. Basically got to 100. Stayed there for a few weeks and realised all I was logging in to do was to check my Farmvi...Garrison.

    Such a shitty mechanic and the whole expansion is based around it.

    Why is there a mechanic in the game that is basically sending magical NPCs to go and do all the work for you?

    And 6.2 won't fix shit. It adds new magical NPCs to the game. BOATS. BOATS HAHAHAHA.

    No new dungeons with 6.2. All they are adding is ANOTHER new difficulty. I'm sorry but Blizzard is lazy. Mythical versions of the same boring shitty dungeons? GTFO.

    Notice that upon more recent xpac releases that there is an ever sharper decline soon after the hype dies down? People are willing to see the direction the game is taking for themselves but are ultimately disappointed and move on in ever increasing numbers. Myself included.

    My old guild reformed (over 30 of us came back for the xpac). None of us were still playing after the 3 month mark.

    I used to play WoW so much but left a few years ago. There are too many MMO's out there that are free to play and are heaps of fun. WoW is still a good game but the competition has surpassed its content and subscription basis.

    I still think WoW is the best MMO i have ever played.

    The experiences back in vanilla till now.

    However, i was a student back then with all the time in the world. Endless hours to sink my teeth into. Now i am a ton older with a family, a job, a mortgage.

    I hit up Draenor and loved the nostalgic feel to it, but once again came the endless grind, the committed raids. The game is great no doubt. But enough is enough.

    It is time i look back on this game with fond memories and thank all the fun I had with it. But now it's time to move on. There is only so much more wow I can take in my life. Playing casual is not an option for me. I can't bring myself to only play some content knowing I am missing out on the committed raiding, the daily grind and such.

    I am by all means not disappointed with where Wow is heading or their lack of content. It's just that time has a whole new meaning to me now.

    Yeh.... Wow, im hanging up those gloves for good. It was great times indeed. If i could go back in time would i choose to not play wow? Hell no. I still think its a great game and would gladly do it all over again.

    Thanks Blizz for taking me to those far off magical places, it was a great 10 year run.

    Last edited 08/05/15 2:13 pm
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    These numbers don't surprise me, the place where WoW is right now is odd, mostly because of the changes that garrisons have brought in.

    Raiding is a mostly dead sport, everything that could have been done has been done and mechanics keep getting recycled in different combinations to give some glimmer of life.

    For the vast majority a lot of the magic is gone, maybe the movie will help, maybe a follow up lich king story, plenty of places to go that might get players excited again.

    Honestly I think a few of the biggest reasons for this drop in player base..
    1: The number crunch was poorly implemented. Last expansion dps was reasonably balanced. This expansion you have some classes *cough* hunters hitting 2 buttons and pulling 25k easily in 5man blues. Other classes are mashing 4+ buttons and struggling to keep up or get even close to *cough* hunters. 1 standard deviation of damage in 630 heroic gear is about 4k dps. 2 standard deviations is 8k, with the average being about 19k, so basically players should be doing between 11k and 27k dps. For the mathematically challenged, 11k is less than half of 27k. They're balancing dps like players are still doing 200k dps.
    2: Pvp is worse as far as balance. Any team that has a healer or dps druid becomes basically gods.
    3: The bad classes are getting nerfed while the good classes aren't being touched or are getting buffs.
    4: Story elements have really stopped making sense. I.E. the Alliance/Horde war is on hold but they're still trying to justify faction based pvp for no reason.
    5: Ashran sucks. It gives really bad players godly epic pvp gear if they're willing to dedicate hours of their time to sitting in a group and taking objectives with no opposition. This hurts other aspects of the game like random battlegrounds and lower rating arenas.
    6: You can't just jump into a 2v2 with a buddy for fun and cp anymore. 3v3 is too specialized and hardcore even at lower ratings. Also players still intentionally drop their rating so they can face easier opponents. If you want to learn to pvp, you really can't jump in and have fun or win regularly because you're going to face opponents pretty much every other game who are either playing a character with a low rating for practice/because they're bored or they are intentionally dropping their rating to fight people who aren't as good. It's bad as low as 1200 rating, but it gets really bad around 1600.
    7: The game is fundamentally different than it used to be. If you were good at the game in any of the last expansions, you might just flat out suck now and there's nothing you can do about it. People who used to suck might be really good now.
    8: If you weren't playing around the end of MoP, it's not easy to find a good guild and a raid team to play with now. Everyone pretty much already figured out exactly who was doing what and with whom by the first day of Warlords.
    I don't feel like Warlords has been implemented the way that the player base expected it to be implemented. I expected kind of a return to the way the game felt pre-cataclysm, but I guess Blizz showed that there's no turning back.

    There's a lot of agreement between players that the game sucks now, but not a lot of agreement as to why. That's why the developers aren't listening to the players; they player base is so divided they don't know who to listen to. I'll tell you the reason they lost so many subscribers- the developers aren't gamers. If they were they would be developing a game they want to play instead of trying to please a bunch of people who don't know what they want (and let's face it- they don't, they only know what they like when they play it) and end up with a game that isn't much fun.

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