When we last checked World of Warcraft subscriber numbers in December of 2008, the game had 11.5 million. In March, Vivendi According to Blizzard's Mike Morhaime, today's numbers are exactly the same. Has the mighty MMO plateaued?
During Activision's calendar year 2009 conference call today, Blizzard top dog Mike Morhaime spoke of the stability of the company's flagship title, World of Warcraft, and he wasn't kidding. Talking numbers, Morhaime revealed that the game currently had approximately 11.5 million subscribers, "about on par with last time we announced."
The only problem is, the last time they announced was in December of 2008, following the release of the Wrath of the Lich King expansion, which should have caused a spike in numbers. Perhaps it did, but the spike faded without the company saying word one about it. At the time of the previous announcement, I questioned why the company had decided to announce half a million more than the 11 million they announced in September of 2008. Perhaps a decline in new subscriptions was behind the incremental update?
Things look even bleaker if you take into account a Vivendi statement from March of 2009. During a conference call, Vivendi Chief Executive Jean-Bernard Levy said, "We started the year with 12 million subscribers for World of Warcraft, which is a good base." If those numbers are correct, then the population has actually dropped by 500,000 since early 2009, though without official numbers from Blizzard we're suspecting the Vivendi executive may have rounded up a bit.
Now mind you, WoW subscriber numbers are culled from all over the world, and with China currently having issues with getting The Burning Crusade expansion reviewed, much less Wrath of the Lich King, a great many players in that region could be backing off until the smoke clears.
Could that account for the stagnant numbers, or are players just growing weary of the game, five years after its explosive release? Either way, we'll be keeping a close eye on those numbers in the months to come. With Cataclysm refreshing the starting content, perhaps we'll see a large influx of new and old players, coming to see how the face of Azeroth has changed.