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posted by janrinok on Saturday March 30, @04:53PM   Printer-friendly

Arthur T Knackerbracket has processed the following story:

According to YouTube channel Bellular Warcraft, World of Warcraft currently has around 7.25 million subscribers. While the game appears to have recovered from the disaster following the Warlords of Draenor expansion almost 10 years ago, it remains far from its peak of 12 million in 2010 during Wrath of the Lich King.

Subscriptions had been declining steadily since Cataclysm in late 2010, when Draenor managed to boost them up to 10 million. Unfortunately, the spike was short-lived, and Blizzard soon confirmed that WoW had plummeted to 5.5 million subscribers – the last hard number the company ever released.

However, sources recently provided Bellular Warcraft with slides from the company's GDC 2024 postmortem, which included a graph showing WoW subscription growth since 2016. The only exact numbers on the chart are the years displayed on the X-axis, but comments from Blizzard over the years gave Bellular Warcraft just enough context to estimate the real figures.

An earnings report from the first quarter of 2017 mentioned that the 2016 expansion, Legion, slightly surpassed its immediate predecessor, Draenor. From there, Bellular Warcraft estimated that the game had around 5.8 million subscribers at that time. They arrived at the current number of 7.25 million by counting the chart's pixels upward from early 2017.

[...] After War for Azeroth sank subscriptions to approximately 4.07 million, Classic bounced them back to 8.27 million. Then, the ensuing pandemic likely helped sustain subscriber counts at a higher average compared to the earlier trend of peaks and troughs. However, the critically panned Shadowlands, which Blizzard's panel admitted was badly executed, led to a collapse to 4.5 million in 2022. Subscriptions then recovered somewhat leading to Dragonflight later that year, which missed Blizzard's projections.

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  • (Score: 3, Insightful) by JoeMerchant on Saturday March 30, @05:08PM (5 children)

    by JoeMerchant (3937) on Saturday March 30, @05:08PM (#1351025)

    Down to $1.3 Billion per year income, they must be crying all the way to the offshore shell company banks.

    🌻🌻 []
    • (Score: 2) by Tork on Saturday March 30, @10:34PM

      by Tork (3914) Subscriber Badge on Saturday March 30, @10:34PM (#1351058)
      Yep. []
      🏳️‍🌈 Proud Ally 🏳️‍🌈
    • (Score: 4, Insightful) by bzipitidoo on Sunday March 31, @03:01AM (3 children)

      by bzipitidoo (4388) on Sunday March 31, @03:01AM (#1351075) Journal

      Are WoW players still paying $15/month? I quit Everquest cold turkey around 15 years ago, partly to get out of the monthly stupidity tax, as one friend called it. The grind had become dreadfully boring. Every year or a bit more often, there was a new expansion with a raise of the level cap. But I recall hearing that EQ has opened up, monthly payments are no longer required to play?

      At least the expansions gradually removed the rougher aspects of EQ. In the early days, there were a lot of rough edges that often resulted in extended downtimes and brutal losses. Such as cute little things like that upon entering a zone, the system did not enable all functionality simultaneously, no, it would allow you to take damage before it would allow you to move. Enter a zone just when someone else had fled from a horde of angry monsters, leaving them milling around the entrance, and you would be absolutely helpless to do anything about it like run for your own life while the monsters beat you to a pulp.

      Lot of MMORPGs have had to offer better deals. LOTRO, for instance, is free to play, and I created a few accounts on it. But I only play it when I want to, which any more is only a few times a year, feeling no pressure to get my money's worth out of a monthly fee. Sometimes, I use LOTRO only to check out the graphics capabilities of a computer.

      • (Score: 2) by looorg on Sunday March 31, @11:48AM (1 child)

        by looorg (578) on Sunday March 31, @11:48AM (#1351093)

        > Are WoW players still paying $15/month?
        As far as I know I think they still do. Or $13/month if you pay for a year in advance. I guess a lot of the older players just see it as a one time yearly fee and then they don't even have to consider it anymore, plus they get a bunch of in-game rewards as mounts and pets and such.

        • (Score: 2) by JoeMerchant on Sunday March 31, @12:59PM

          by JoeMerchant (3937) on Sunday March 31, @12:59PM (#1351099)

          I've had a domain name and hosted website since 1997, it has run around $15-20 per month all those years, and I just try to forget about the fact that I could invest dozens of hours per year and reduce that $240 annual expense to maybe $60-90, in exchange for those dozens of hours staying on top of which service providers are offering the best deals and how to interface with their systems, etc. I suppose if I ever got the itch for something like WoW (not bloody likely, I barely felt value-for-money out of the StarCraft II game purchase back around 2010), I could look at all those hours spent learning the various web-host systems as "entertainment" and sink time there before falling off a cliff like WoW.

          On the plus side, I'm pretty convinced that the existence of that website was instrumental in me winning a $3500 prize from Intel around 2007... not that the prize was "worth" more than about $800 to me, but even at that rate it paid for a few years of website service.

          On the "oh well" side, I do believe the website still offers "better value to the family's life" than my wife's $20/mo book club subscription, which she avidly used the hell out of in 2021, sort of read a book a month in 2022, and probably hasn't exchanged a single book with since mid 2023, but wishes she would get back to so still hangs on to the subscription...

          🌻🌻 []
      • (Score: 2) by Freeman on Monday April 01, @02:00PM

        by Freeman (732) on Monday April 01, @02:00PM (#1351194) Journal

        Why settle for $15/month when you can offer the game for free, then rake in truck loads of money from "color skins/potions/game money". Though, if I remember correctly WoW was one of the biggest names on that offender list.

        Ah, nice: []
        Then there's this nice post: []

        Awesome: []

        Therefore, that $1.3 billion dollars they may be making in subscription feeds (probably less) is at best 39% of their revenue.

        Joshua 1:9 "Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee"
  • (Score: 2) by looorg on Sunday March 31, @11:46AM (10 children)

    by looorg (578) on Sunday March 31, @11:46AM (#1351092)

    I'm surprised it's still that many subscribers considering that the last couple of expansions have been dreadful, the story became an utter disaster even longer ago then that. So you couldn't even enjoy that aspect of it all anymore. But over all it does seem to follow the well established and normal pattern for WOW with an influx of players when a new expansion, or sometimes even a new patch is released with new raid content, to then slowly die down again. Repeat. It's not like back in the beginning when you never stopped. There was always something to do, even if that thing was the same or repeated. Those sort of grindy things just doesn't fly any more. Like spending an actual half hour or more just to get to the dungeon you wanted to run, not just like now push a few buttons and wait to be teleported.

    In some regard it's a bit interesting that they still see it as a "raiding" game even when the amount of people that actually do the hardcore raiding thing must be dwindling even faster. It was hard to maintain people for that a long time ago. Now it must be a nightmare. It's a very small amount of those millions of still active users. But they are still the cornerstone of the expansions. What the other people get out of it is somewhat unclear to me.

    That said it's probably still cheap entertainment, or a time waster, at $15 per month (or $13 if you pay for a year in advance). The longer subscription offers might also be what keeps the numbers up. Not sure how popular the gold token still are but you could in essence play for free if you can make enough in-game gold to cash it out, but then someone else did pay real $ for said token. So Blizzard are not giving anything away for free. Also in that equation time has basically no value. If you pay a onetime fee per year and then you can play as much or as little as you like. You also get a bunch of in-game rewards like mounts, pets and things if you pay for longer periods so you are clearly incentivized to do so.

    But I am left to wonder for how low it can go to still be viable for another expansion and keeping the lights on. Apparently at least another couple of expansions which should take it to close to around 2030ish. It really is the MMO juggernaut to which all others are compared, it has killed all the competition to such a level as there is no competition left anymore. There are still a few MMO:S out there but they are not in competition anymore. In that regard WOW have become almost like an eternity engine.

    • (Score: 3, Insightful) by bzipitidoo on Sunday March 31, @02:28PM (8 children)

      by bzipitidoo (4388) on Sunday March 31, @02:28PM (#1351102) Journal

      MMORPGs, particularly fantasy ones, are a testament to the enduring popularity of the Dungeons and Dragons role playing game and system released back in the 1970s. Computers are great at relieving the players of the dull work of tracking hit points, ammo, weight limits, and all that mechanical stuff, but are still abysmal at handling the inventiveness of real role playing. As in, they don't even try. The Ultima RPGs of the early 1980s are at once recognized as based on D&D, but only the mechanics. All these years later, MMORPGs still haven't bridged that challenge. Graphics thousands of times more capable, far more memory that is employed to program NPCs with more dialog and better movement than the random walk stuff used in 1980s Ultima, networking that can handle the MMO part, and still little better at RPG than those early Ultima games. They threw in another mechanical system (called "faction" in EQ) to try to capture some of that aspect of role playing, but it's real feeble next to what a good human Dungeon Master can do.

      All this hype about AI is shown to be empty as long as computers still can't take on the role of Dungeon Master. For instance, suppose the players want to use a pit trap to take on a particularly challenging monster. You can easily do that in Minecraft, but not in WoW or any other MMORPG, the games simply have no conception of such a tactic, no mechanics to cover that. Or the players would like to use nets, another notion that would be easy for a human game master to understand and whip up a plausible outcome, but which is beyond an MMORPG. Or, straight out of Lord of the Rings, there is the tactic of releasing a flood upon enemies. MMORPG monsters scarcely even do such elementary things as trying to circle behind a foe, trying to surround an enemy, as a pack of wolves might do in RL, no, they just brainlessly face off. (There is some reason for that-- network lag can make it unfairly difficult for players to respond to such circling tactics.) In 1980s Ultima, enemies are completely incapable of going around even the most trivial of obstacles. MMORPGs aren't quite that bad, but the enemies in those are effectively still just as brainless.

      Despite these really crippling limitations, MMORPGs have been very popular. My guess is that addressing these limitations is scope for many more improvements, and this will keep players engaged for some time to come. One obvious method is to get people to run the monsters, and I guess most MMORPGs now have a "monster play" option. That soon takes things in the direction of the team games.

      • (Score: 2) by looorg on Sunday March 31, @02:51PM (6 children)

        by looorg (578) on Sunday March 31, @02:51PM (#1351103)

        Technically some of those things are as gimmicks in certain raid/dungeon boss fights. You are supposed to kite the boss enemy around to trigger things on the ground etc. Kit it around to stand in a flame so it gets some kind of debuff etc. Those are the in-game representation of that. Over the years some players did realize or managed to glitch or do bosses in ways it was not meant from the beginning, more or less making the encounters trivial. Sometimes by positioning and sometimes by using items or buffs in ways it was not intended. So there is some unintended wiggleroom in various aspects of the game. But they either get fixed as it wasn't the way that the developer intended or well the people that manage and can pull it off are so small it doesn't matter.

        Still it removes the triviality of some bookkeeping aspects of traditional rpg:s, such as tracking hitpoints or calculating damage and thac0 or what have you. But it then also takes away aspects of the game by hiding them and giving nothing but I guess visuals back. Working with numbers in your head is a good skill to have. But it kills the imagination for most of it, after all you don't have to think. You don't have to use your imagination. You are playing with someone else's toys in a way they want you to. If you break the boundaries you are bound to get banned.

        • (Score: 2) by acid andy on Sunday March 31, @03:53PM (5 children)

          by acid andy (1683) on Sunday March 31, @03:53PM (#1351111) Homepage Journal

          You are playing with someone else's toys in a way they want you to. If you break the boundaries you are bound to get banned.

          I'm going off topic but you just reminded me of my getting bored of GTA 5 for being too locked down so you can't go off script in the missions (Can't drop a container on a car; can't take aim at the NPC who wants you to kill coyotes, etc.), compared to the earlier games. I realize based on your comment that the online game mode is probably a big factor in the developers' deciding to lock it down so much.

          If a cat has kittens, does a rat have rittens, a bat bittens and a mat mittens?
          • (Score: 2) by looorg on Sunday March 31, @04:33PM (4 children)

            by looorg (578) on Sunday March 31, @04:33PM (#1351114)

            Even in solo games. I recall the first or second fallout game you could kill children and women. Big outrage. That you could kill all the men, all part of the game. Also you couldn't kill dogs/cats/pets or something such. So clearly they have rules.

            Or that Hot Coffee thing for the early GTA games, simulated pixel blowjobs .. ohhhh .. sexytime ...

            • (Score: 2) by bzipitidoo on Sunday March 31, @11:26PM (3 children)

              by bzipitidoo (4388) on Sunday March 31, @11:26PM (#1351138) Journal

              Ultimas 1 through 3 were totally amoral. Kill off entire towns if you wanted, and suffer no lasting repercussions, not even the loss of the town as a base to rest, heal, and re-provision, because soon as you left, it all reset to its initial state. You might think that it's only logical that if you killed all the merchants, you couldn't buy or sell at that town ever again, but no, on your next visit the merchants are all back and willing to deal as if your previous visit had never happened. All the guards would switch to pursuit and attack the moment you murdered a townsperson, but other than that, no repercussions. The guards would forget that they were unhappy with you the moment you exited the town. (Well, yeah, modern MMORPGs reset things too.) Could kill and loot the same town over and over.

              In a few cases, you had to kill a few townsfolk to get a vital clue or item required to finish the game. Kinda twisted. Mothers in particular complained about this, and so, Ultima 4 was far more moral.

              • (Score: 2) by Freeman on Monday April 01, @02:10PM (2 children)

                by Freeman (732) on Monday April 01, @02:10PM (#1351195) Journal

                I wonder what "Moms" thought about Ultima VII? Lesbian action, lots of sex, the ability to acquire the armageddon spell and cast it, which killed pretty near everyone in the game (possibly only one exception to that, besides oneself. I forget exactly which character(s) didn't die). The starter for the game was investigating a murder too. Not to mention the ease with which one could generally dispatch whomever you felt like. Though you would likely end up jailed by the guards, so not worth it in general. X-COM and Ultima VII were peak Isometic games in my opinion. Though, apparently Civ II, Diablo, and SimCity 2000 were isometric games as well. []

                Joshua 1:9 "Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee"
                • (Score: 2) by bzipitidoo on Monday April 01, @05:01PM (1 child)

                  by bzipitidoo (4388) on Monday April 01, @05:01PM (#1351211) Journal

                  Lesbian action in Ultima 7? I never played 7, and didn't know of that. I have observed a huge shift in society becoming far more accepting of homosexuality. Possibly the 1989 turret explosion on the Battleship Iowa and the Navy's absurd and mean attempt to blame it on homosexuality began the shift, and I suppose Ultima 7, which was published in 1992, reflects that.

                  The moralizing was taken to ridiculous extremes. In Ultima 5, you start the game with your friend Iolo at his home. But don't harvest any of Iolo's corn even though he's right there with you, because that's stealing!

                  Well, the first thing I did in Ultima 5 after leaving Iolo's hut and his corn, was visit Lord British's castle and poke around. Came across a number of items that were plainly of significance, but having been scolded for "stealing" Iolo's corn, I left those items where I found them. Played through the rest of the game, and then at the finale, was told that one of those items was absolutely necessary to reach the happy conclusion. The game ended at that point with the unhappy conclusion. Well, no problem, I thought. Just restore the saved game, go get the item and return. But then I learned that the entrance to the final dungeon was one way. Couldn't leave. The saved game was useless. To reach the happy ending, had to start the game over. I did. Maybe set a record for a speed run. And it wasn't worth it, all that just to see the happy ending.

                  Ultima 6 I never finished, thanks to bugs. Same map as Ultima 5 and 4, but with one huge difference: the world no longer wrapped around, could no longer sail off the bottom end to reach the top, instead the world ends, and you are shown a view of star filled night sky beyond the edge. They had implemented this key buffering that had the effect of making my ship keep on sailing. Couldn't stop until the prow was hanging over the edge. I turned about, but here, the ship broke in two, the prow was stuck hanging off the edge of the world, and I sailed back with only the stern. Clearly a bug. From that point on, the bugs snowballed. I guess the initial bug corrupted memory, and the corruption spread. The game was soon unplayable. A few months later, they released a patch, but by then I had moved on. I never played any Ultima after 6, except an hour or so of Ultima Online, which I found too harsh. Too much PKing.

                  Ultima 6 did have the Armageddon spell. If you use it, of course that effectively ends things, leaving you in a boring world empty of people, and you'll have to start the game over. The Ultimas were notorious for being lacking in the ability to save and restore. Just one slot. Better than none at all. However, when a character dies, the game instantly marks that character as dead in the save game data, just to stop players from dodging a death by restoring a save. Seems silly to have been so hardcore about that, but that's the way they were. That could be dodged by write protecting the disk, but that was inconvenient. Ultima 2 was really vicious about food. You need to consume food every few steps you take, and if you can't because you've run out, you instantly die! Quite easy to end up doomed to death by starvation because you're too low on food to reach a place where you can get more. Consequently, the most dangerous monsters in Ultima 2 are the gremlins that steal your food. Ultima 2 has dungeons, but they are not worth visiting, thanks to death by gremlins who steal your last bit of food. Starvation was greatly softened in Ultima 3, changed from instant death to instead taking a little damage.

                  • (Score: 2) by Freeman on Monday April 01, @07:12PM

                    by Freeman (732) on Monday April 01, @07:12PM (#1351218) Journal

                    Ah, Ultima VII had multiple save slots. The silver seed expansion, if you're playing as a female avatar is where things get spicy. You can refuse to cooperate no matter what character you're using, but it's essentially part of the plot line. There's also a naked pair of individuals you find that are living the dream we'll just say. Way off in their own corner of the world. The world/map just had so much going on that even now it's not a bad experience. Especially, if you use something like Exult (Remake more or less?) to play Ultima VII. They backport some of the niceties (keyring + a few other things) you got in the silver seed into the first part of the game.

                    Joshua 1:9 "Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee"
      • (Score: 4, Funny) by looorg on Sunday March 31, @03:09PM

        by looorg (578) on Sunday March 31, @03:09PM (#1351105)

        There is a reason most "boss rooms" are now big squares or circles with not much in them. In ye olden days the rooms had odd shapes or pillars and things to hide behind. Which was abused to the max, or even part of the fight.

        Bosses also could be kited more or less forever. The outdoor, or world-, bosses like Dragons or big stompy daemons coming over from the Blasted lands to Stormwind. So they got limits put on them. But it was hilarious while it lasted to kite some of them all the way to Stormwind and then just let it run rampage thru the city stomping everyone that logged in etc. Eventually it got defeated but lots of death, lots of lost gold, lots of tears.

        I guess people didn't like it the first time the zombie plague was a thing either before Wrath of the Lich King. Nor did they like that they figured out, by accident, that you could bring debuffs from raids into the cities via hunter pets, that is how the blood plague came from Zul'Gurub into the world -- a pet got the plague, was dismissed with the debuff on, was then summoned again outside the raid instance and the debuff was still on it and it spread like wildfire. Much hilarity ...

    • (Score: 2) by damnbunni on Monday April 01, @08:57PM

      by damnbunni (704) on Monday April 01, @08:57PM (#1351237) Journal

      Final Fantasy XIV has ~30 million active players. I'd say that it's much more of a 'juggernaut' than WOW is, at this point.

      Granted a decent portion of those are in the "free trial" which gives you about a third of the game to play around with, but it's still a hellalotta paying players.