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My first prediction for 2013: World of Warcraft will lose 3 million subscribers.

By on December 10, 2012
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At the Mobile Gaming Europe conference last week, I predicted that 2013 will be a tipping point for World of Warcraft, in a bad way. I believe that time is running out on the most successful game of all time. It’s been a good run. The game was launched in 2004. It has been a billion dollar franchise for many years. Unfortunately, I think it’s time is coming to an end.

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For many of the players still subscribing to WoW, they stay because of their friends. They pay each month to preserve the possibility that they might go raiding. An expansion like Mists of Pandaria is not about earning $40 from the sale of a box at Gamestop (of which Activision only sees half); it is about persuading a subscriber to keep subscribing for the two years between expansions. That’s over $200 of revenue, most of which does go to Activision.

That’s what is in trouble. Activision has seen users drop to below 10 million users, down from a peak of 12 million. Mists of Pandaria boosted the number of subscribers up again, but not by much. Now, I believe, enough consumers are thinking that they won’t be going back to Warcraft that the subscription is not worth it. Their friends aren’t there enough any more. They are playing Guild Wars 2 or Rift. A few of them are playing The Old Republic. More of them are playing Clash of Clans and World of Tanks and League of Legends and CSR Racing.

It’s not that the core WoW fans aren’t there. It’s that those who are not so committed don’t see the point of paying for the option of playing. They will move in.

Warcraft will lost 3 million subs in 2013, and drop below 7 million.

Do you think I’m right, or crazy? Let me know.

About Nicholas Lovell

Nicholas is the founder of Gamesbrief, a blog dedicated to the business of games. It aims to be informative, authoritative and above all helpful to developers grappling with business strategy. He is the author of a growing list of books about making money in the games industry and other digital media, including How to Publish a Game and Design Rules for Free-to-Play Games, and Penguin-published title The Curve: thecurveonline.com