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MMO Money Magazine

Writings on the business of fun: Virtual Worlds and Real Money Makes Online Gaming a Big Business. My economic view on the world of online games - without the hype.

Author: Inktomi

World of Warcraft is Bleeding Subscriptions.

Posted by Inktomi Friday February 12 2010 at 10:36AM
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It appears that they are. In a article posted on, Mike Morhaime, President and Co-Founder of Blizzard Entertainment stated in a 2009 conference call that as of December 2008 the World of Warcraft had 11 million subscriptions. According to this article they have seen no growth since 2008.

Following that announcement, Vivendi Chief Executive Jean-Bernard Levy stated on a March 2009 conference call that they started 2009 with 12 million subscriptions. Do you see the difference here?

Michael "Mike" Morhaime - Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.comAs we speak subscriptions numbers from the last announcement are at 11.5 million. So this means that 500,000 players have left the building. Again, there should be a certain amount of stability from the release of the last expansion. There might have been but it seems to be tapering off and the company hasn't owned up to it.

In my last article someone posted a comment speaking that they have had played wow and wouldn't return even with a free $100. This seems to be the trend when talking to most people that had played wow and "Probably not. I had my fill of that world, and if Cataclysm doesn't lure me in I'll let it go for good and find something else" is the common theme. Blizzard could be banking on Cataclysm to retain their already fading customer base much like their players are.

Another interesting point of view: "Blizzard CEO Mike Morhaime said earlier today that 70% of people playing on a WoW trial account (which I'd imagine would be most new players) fail to progress past level 10 in the game." - reported from 

Seems that new players or even hopeful returners like myself included sign on, play for a little bit and then leave. This is from most likely playing the 14 day free trial. So they don't even really scratch the surface in 2 weeks of playing wow. If you played wow before and leveled an alt or two, you could make level 24 in a matter of hours.

I'm not bashing Blizzard or being a wow-hater. I examine businesses and it looks like Blizz is hitting the plateau at 11 - 11.5 million subs. Which is not chump change at all, that brings in revenue of $172 million smackaroos monthly. Monthly...over the course of a year your loyal monthly subscriptions roughly bring in over $2 billion to the company. And I am not even factoring in box sales.

But this does reinforce my point that it is an expensive barrier of entry. It is quality and many will pay for it, unless they really don't like it. In a era of new mmo gamer that is moving away from the traditional theme-park pay to play style to a pay as you want sandbox, Blizzard needs to capture those new players and retain old ones.

It looks like right now they are sitting pretty with their "good base" as Vivendi called it. But if I know Big Corporate like I know Big Corporate, they are looking for growth and to make even MOAR mMO MONEY!

Thats right, I went there.

Play safe,



Jayzee writes:

I have retired my account a few months back after playing for over 4 years . Main reasons for leaving was the amount of time it took up out of my evening, the community has got so much worse and the game changes gone are the days where you worked for your gear . Making the subscriber base bigger by letting complete idiots get Epic loot and claim to have worked hard . Upon realising that the game goes no where you spend months on gearing your char perfectly only to have a new expansion / lvl cap increase and have to do it all over again . Not actually owning the account or the effort you put into the game makes me feel i have wasted a lot of years for nothing .... i used to love the game so very much :)

Fri Feb 12 2010 11:17AM Report
n3verendR writes:

I actually played the game up till 2 months before Icecrown Citadel came out. That is from their stress test all the way up to a few months of Tournament. I can honestly say that I had fun playing the game for so long because of the community I was playing with. I quit off and on during my period of playing simply because the community would have spikes.

Why did I kick the bucket for good?

Wow as a whole is no longer able to be sustained by community alone and while one cannot argue they come out with quality content... One can also say "Explain to me the difference between the Arthas Fight, and Kil'jaedin..."


No I don't mean mechanics, I mean what are you really doing? Your learning an encounter much akin to going to school, and completing it in order to obtain gear that will inevitably be upgraded with more gear.


Wow has not changed from that formula since inception, do you remember people making a huge deal out of the chess match in karazahn?

It wasn't because it was super fun or anything, but people saw change - they saw a different formula.


Yogg Saron to this day will remain my idea of "pinnacle blizzard content" until Starcraft 2 and Diablo 3 farther wow me, and thus farther wow more subscribers away from wow.


Either update the formula or people WILL leak from the game, not to end it - but the possibility of wow becoming a sideshow attraction to future MMORPGs... seems more likely.


Fri Feb 12 2010 2:17PM Report
Player_420 writes:

yeh Yogg Saron was the pinnacle of raiding in my opinion for the game (besides vanilla WoW content)...Sadly most of my former raiders (rl friends as well) left the game months ago as did I.

Fri Feb 12 2010 3:30PM Report
Inktomi writes:

 I want to thank you guys for the comments. It's good to hear the stories of why you left, but where are you now? What are you playing and why is the game that you choose over wow.


2  Reiz: yes I remember the 'event' raids, all you needed to do is jump through the necessary hoops and get your reward at the end. Felt like I was playing 'stupid human tricks'.


Keep the stories coming!



Fri Feb 12 2010 10:20PM Report
js43017 writes:

The unemployment rate has been going up since 2009. The number of players has been going down since 2009. I really don't think that is a coincidence.

Sat Feb 13 2010 6:57AM Report
Inktomi writes:

 actually, the number of people that have bought video games went up along with the unemployment rate. But has since dropped as its stayed as high as it is.


Sat Feb 13 2010 7:25AM Report
Tinagame writes:

I still have the WoW sub but really not playing as much. I am bored actually with it but have not found another MMO to grab my attention. If Catalysm does not delivery for me I will be gone for good. I am interested in the new Final Fantasy game to come out this year.

I have been playing console games again; but miss the community interaction that you get with a MMO.

I started WoW in 2004 when it first came out and miss the challenge that once was. I do think it is way to end game and focus to much on dungeons. I love both PvP and RP aspects of the MMORPG games. I have been an on and off player with WoW for a long time since it came out. In between I have tried other MMOs and have never lasted longer than 3 to 6 months on them.

What I am looking for in an MMORPG is a game that is not end game driven but is more journey motivated with a feeling of continuation.

Sat Feb 13 2010 12:27PM Report
daltanious writes:

Did not even bother to read all ... by my experience wow is in better shape then ever, better game then ever ... and cataclysm coming.

I will still from time to time play AoC, Lotro, ... but only game i can immagine myself to play i.e. after 20 years ... is Wow.

Sat Feb 13 2010 3:51PM Report
Jaedor writes:

I figured the bleed was the loss of Chinese subs.

I've played WoW for four years and still love it. I have raiding toons and lowbie RP toons, alliance and horde, and I'm never bored.

Mon Mar 01 2010 12:38PM Report writes:
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