Activision reported increased revenue even with the huge drop in population.
World of Warcraft has been the king of MMOs for years, but its hold on that throne is finally starting to loosen. It launched in 2004 and had incredible growth over the first three years of its life, reaching above 8 million subscribers in January 2007 right after the first expansion The Burning Crusade released. Growth continued, spurred by the launch of the game in China, until peaking in 2010 with 12 million worldwide subscribers. WoW's population declined after that though, with a few peaks after the release of Cataclysm and last year's Mists of Pandaria, to finally rest, as of today's Activision-Blizzard earnings call, at 8.3 million subscribers. Despite the drop to near pre-BC population levels, and the lowest point in 6 years, Activision reported the game is still making bank.
"Blizzard's World of Warcraft remained the #1 subscription-based MMORPG in the world with more than eight million subscribers, although the game saw declines of approximately 1.3 million subscribers, mainly from the East, but in the West as well," Activision CEO Bobby Kotick said on the call.
While Kotick remained positive, he did mention cause for concern for 2013. "While we have had a solid start to the year, we now believe that the risks and uncertainties in the back half of 2013 are more challenging than our earlier view, especially in the holiday quarter," he said. "Uncertainties regarding next-generation hardware, and subscriber declines in our World of Warcraft business all raise concerns, as do continued challenges in the global economy. For these reasons, we remain cautious."
Enter the world of Azeroth and battle against the Alliance of humans, dwarves and night elves or the brutish orcs, trolls and undead of the Horde. World of Warcraft has a very large community of players with hundreds of servers and a myriad of endgame pursuits from raiding dungeons, questing, achievement hunting, PVP arenas, and now pet battles.
Consumer confidence in WoW is certainly waning, I can attest to that personally. I was an unrepentant fanboy nigh on 3 years ago but something soured the taste of WoW in my mouth. I don't believe it's anything Blizzard did specifically, I really enjoyed the additions to Mists of Pandaria, but the market has changed. Free to play MMOs have grabbed a slice of WoW's population and players are just getting tired of the same - albeit polished and fun - gameplay from Blizzard. We'll see if the population continues ot decline and whether newcomers like Neverwinter and The Elder Scrolls Online might be able to finally unseat the king of MMOs from its 9 year reign.