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World of Warcraft loses nearly 1 million subscribers in less than a year

As of January 30, World of Warcraft had dipped to 11.1 million active users, 300,000 fewer than the 11.4 million they had in May, and almost a million down from their all-time peak of 12 million last October. Blizzard says it isn't worried about losing nearly a million users in less than a year because it's part of natural cycle that accompanies the release of new material.

In a conference call with Activision Blizzard investors Blizzard president Michael Morhaime said that the second quarter of consecutive decline is to be expected after the release of a major expansion like December's Cataclysm by saying "subscribership tends to be seasonal and driven by content updates.” What he meant is that after experienced users tear through new content they start to get bored and may stop playing the game.

Morhaime also said that cycle is natural, but admitted that the loss of players is becoming more extreme, adding "I think with Cataclysm they were able to consume the content faster than with previous expansions, but that's why we're working on developing more content."

To counter this decline, Blizzard switched to a free-to-play model for characters below level 20 in late June and the company is ramping up for a “major new raid and dungeon" by the year's end. Morhaime is probably not referring to the rumored panda-centric expansion, and instead means WoW players should expect major updates in the next Cataclysm patch.

Aug 5, 2011

Source: Gamasutra

25 comments

  • raptorak - August 8, 2011 7:40 a.m.

    I left WoW after having played 2 stints of around 6 months each, ended Burning Crusade with your average level 70 warrior. Am now thinking I'd like to wait for more content to be added and just start a new char, play for another 6 months and go through all the content, then quit again. Am sure there are other players like this, either way Blizz makes good money from all kinds of players.
  • Yeager1122 - August 7, 2011 7:39 p.m.

    Tried WoW once just didnt see the appeal never tried it again although i am excited for the Old Republic might actually get me back into mmo's
  • PretzelBoy - August 7, 2011 1:27 a.m.

    dur, WoW is stupid and this proves its dying
  • Elementium - August 6, 2011 3:41 p.m.

    Free to Play sounds like reasonable direction for WoW sometime within the next year or so. I mean, 1 million out of 12 million gone means the bills are still getting paid on blizzards bio-engineering a real live orc project. :) But WoW is old. They know it, we know it. I compare it to simply growing up.. Your mom and dad are really cool when you're little but as you get older you want younger friends that fit your new interests and aren't behind the times. It's not Blizzards fault and I'm sure Titan will remedy alot of our "tired of WoW" problems.
  • Elitepwnsface - August 6, 2011 1:15 p.m.

    They center the game around raiding, and it just sucks to much time of your life. They need to start catering to those who don't have such time. Not sure what they can do, but its fricking blizzard who has millions of dollars to find out. Is kinda funny how this is blow out of proportion though.
  • tacehtselrahc - August 6, 2011 9:21 a.m.

    Mystery solved, now we know who bought all those Kinects:)
  • jmcgrotty - August 6, 2011 7:56 a.m.

    I really get annoyed by people sometimes... (If it matters, I can't stand WOW. So, don't think I'm defending them. Seriously, only the scum of the earth play this thing.) Personally, based on the cyclical nature of WOW, this whole topic really isn't worth mentioning yet. blscactus said: "they think TOR is gonna fail, and WoW will rise again." Well, how is that wrong? Historically, almost all other MMO's fail. And WOW does see a noticable surge in players each time a new expansion comes out. PimplesInYourAsstista said: "Anyone who says 'dur, WoW is stupid and this proves its dying' is an idiot." I can positively say I have never heard a person say "dur" about anything. Of course, you meant it just to be derogatory towards the type of mentality that you mentioned. But using "dur" just is ridiculous.
  • ObliqueZombie - August 6, 2011 6:04 a.m.

    Besides, MMOs seem to have the biggest fan-boy wars. People either love it or hate, and if for some reason it doesn't "kick" with them, they deem it un-engaging and boring. If you don't like it, fine, but people need to look deeper than what they're killing and how. Sometimes, story is the biggest factor. Hell, when I quested from 84 - 85, I STILL kept questing because the battle between Deathwing and Alexstrasza was amazing, and the story they shared grabbed hold of me more tightly than I ever expected.
  • ObliqueZombie - August 6, 2011 6 a.m.

    (Sigh) All these arguments above me are stupid. Look, if it's boring to you, congratulations for getting bored with something with over 5 years of play time. This MMO is still the king, and for a damn good reason. Every other MMO is just a shell compared to World of Warcraft, but that's just because it's had time to develop it's name and content, unlike Rift, Aion, etc. Besides, losing 1 million people? Out of 12 million? Hardly a dent. But hey, I plan on playing this off and on still, seeing as I just started two months ago. SWTOR is still next on my list.
  • thedez - August 6, 2011 3:46 a.m.

    Free to play, for the win.
  • TheRandomFool - August 6, 2011 2:11 a.m.

    Hardly amazing, but understandable. This game will not ever actually 'die' but it will decline increasingly over time. No matter what they do, it is getting relatively aged, and there are so many newer (dare I say better?) things coming out in the next while. With a large chunk of those being relatively cheap (F2P or single payment) they can all succeed. If Blizzy was really bright, they would create a WoW2 or something similar, or make a new IP to freshen things up.
  • AuthorityFigure - August 6, 2011 1:58 a.m.

    That just means a gold farming sweatshop in regional China was shut down. No big deal.
  • PimplesInYourAsstista - August 6, 2011 1:49 a.m.

    I play WoW on a "few months on, few months off" basis. For me, at least, things don't tend to get boring very often. If you play for nearly 3 yeras straight, then yeah, no shit things start to get dull. To be fair, the game is 7 years old, and still has the player base (myself included obviously) it has, so they're obviously doing something right. Anyone who says "dur, WoW is stupid and this proves its dying" is an idiot. As far as I can see, there aren't any real contenders to the MMO throne, except 'maybe' Guild Wars 2. Sorry, SW:TOR, for all its fancy voice work, doesn't look up to it. I'm willing to bet it'll go the way of Star Wars: Galaxies.
  • BazyLastard - August 6, 2011 12:59 a.m.

    Anyone who's played since vanilla WoW, knows that they have made the game so much easier/faster to level now. The trade off is that easy means less investment. Less investment means less attachment. Or in other words, "easy come, easy go." At the same time, due to WoW's age, it becomes harder and harder to come up with anything that truly feels fresh or new. Those are two things working against them when it comes to keeping subscribers. But on the flip side, they can't slow leveling back down for fear new players won't have the patience to grind through 85 levels so they can get to the perceived "good stuff" at end game. One thing I think they could do is borrow a page from other MMO's (the original EQ for one) in having live GM events randomly. If you logged in one day and several portals were scattered throughout Stormwind and Ogrimmar that ported players of both factions between them, you'd have an interesting day on your hands. Or even have some GM-controlled NPCs trying to take over a city, or doing something spontaneous to grab players' attention and be anything out of the ordinary. It doesn't even have to be large scale. I remember in EQ that feeling of, "I never really can take anything for granted. Today there might be an invasion of high level skeleton NPCs in Qeynos hills." Knowing that you never quite know what you might get when you log in today, made the game more exciting. It's pretty sad that one of things I looked forward to when first playing Cataclysm was hoping Deathwing visited the zone I was in. Why? Because at first, it was new, and broke up the monotony. It made the ordinary a little extraordinary. WoW could use a lot more of that. Especially at almost 7 years old. But personally, I think it's best days are behind it. I expect it will be around for several more years, but that subscriber numbers will never really hit as high as 12 million.
  • Blasto - August 6, 2011 12:34 a.m.

    "As of January 30, World of Warcraft had dipped to 11.1 million active users, 300,000 fewer than the 11.4 million they had in May" You sure you meant to say "January"? Anyhoo, 11 million subscribers is still pretty damn good for a game that's almost seven years old.
  • CommandantOreo - August 5, 2011 11:47 p.m.

    cody:who cares about sex
  • codystovall - August 5, 2011 11:43 p.m.

    1 million people just got laid.......I was not one of them....
  • Linktoreality - August 5, 2011 11:02 p.m.

    I played it for a few months years ago, then got bored of it. I've yet to see the MMO that is actually engaging enough to keep playing.
  • HamsterGutz - August 5, 2011 10:47 p.m.

    Played it since BC and quit in February, it just got boring.
  • blscactus - August 5, 2011 10:34 p.m.

    Another thing I forgot to mention too was that my guildies are such WoW freaks, they think TOR is gonna fail, and WoW will rise again like they're a bunch of rednecks pulling for the South. I think I'm just gonna take a several month break when my time runs out, and just wait for the next patch, we got to Ragnaros in FL within like 2 weeks.

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