The SWTOR effect? Blizzard lays off 600 staff

Over at VentureBeat, Dean Takahashi an interesting story on Blizzard Software cutting its workforce by around 600. SWTOR is cited as one impact, as is the life cycle of a long-standing MMO like World of Warcraft:

The cuts are believed to focus on the company’s community service department. World of Warcraft, the company’s flagship game, has seen its subscriber numbers fall from 12 million subscribers in 2010 to 10.2 million in the last quarter.

Atul Bagga, an analyst at Lazard Capital Markets, said in a note that the cuts were probably 20 to 30 percent of the company’s customer service staff. He said the headcount reduction is likely linked to the downward slope of World of Warcraft usage. He believes that WoW’s subscriber base will fall 300,000 to 400,000 users in the current quarter, due to churn and tougher competition from titles such as Star Wars: The Old Republic.

For what it’s worth, I don’t buy the line that SWTOR is having that much of an impact – at least yet. The life cycle issue is the much more pertinent one. At yesterday’s Australia/New Zealand launch, I heard a gaming journalist behind me say to the colleague next to him that he was underwhelmed by SWTOR because of it’s graphics – why would he play this when he has (insert latest console FPS) at home with its stunning graphics. He then went onto say it was the same reason he avoided WoW back in the time of Burning Crusade.

It’s a stark reminder of how old WoW is, and that has to be impacting subscriber numbers. Add up-and-comers like SWTOR and other MMOs on the horizon such as Guild Wars 2 and you can see there’s probably a downward trajectory for WoW. Not a terminal trajectory by any stretch however – even if SWTOR does pick up a few million more players.

Over to you: is SWTOR responsible to any great extent for the pain of layoffs over at Blizzard?

[Thanks to David K for the heads-up!]


  1. Yay! I got credit for heads up 🙂 he he!  Yes, for sure there are many factors, but I think everyone underestimates the power of Star Wars nerds. SWTOR must be putting at least a little hurt on WOW.


  3. Kellytm3 says

    I’ve got 700+ hours in TOR,while I enjoy the game,I also feel that it isn’t having an impact on WoW. TOR has been out for over 2 months now,and people have had plenty of time to play and try it out. I know Xfire is not a super reliable source,but since TOR went live,it has gone from 11k+ Xfire users per day playing to a now paultry 4k+ per day.

  4. Nosoundnonoise says

    Sever statistics show WoW is still going strong and nearly the same as ever while TOR has been hemorrhaging users since launch. Browsing the TOR forums the moderators are in full damage control locking any threads with people complaining about lack of players and generally empty worlds.

  5. Some information I have seen suggests that Customer Support in terms of Character Restoration used to be a pretty much manual process but now has been automated and this is also coupled with heightened account security mechanisms like IP address change lockouts. Yes, WoW has lost almost 2 million subscribers so far but its still around the 10 million mark which is pretty substantial. So if the workload in customer services has also been substantially reduced then the layoffs make sense.
    In terms of SWTOR playerbase and their origins. I think its fair to say that some WoW players certinaly tried SWTOR and have gone back to WoW while others remained. The SWG player base seems likely to have been picked up by SWTOR. A large portion of the player base is also supposed to be new to MMOs and has been bought in by the IP. I think I also recall reading that Rift was hit reasonably hard by SWTOR but WoW is still has a pretty sizeable following.

  6. So many ignorant gamers…
    You really think your opinion that “TOR is GARBAGE” matters, the fact of the matter is that WoW is losing subscribers which was obviously going to happen because of the shitty Expansions the last 2 years WOTLK and Cata. all these WoW fan boys rush to forums to try and troll, get over it. SWTOR is a good game, not as bug free as WoW but still a good game. The story driven quests are what make it 20x better then grinding and questing in WoW. You know Vanilla had 4.5Million at its peak right….? SWTOR just launched copies in Asia and everywhere overseas. there subscribers is bound to increase. time for WoW to share the chair.

    • Most MMO expansions proceeding the initial one are bad because they begin to change the game so much (adding new abilities, new balancing, new items, etc).  Most gamers will prefer the original game they started with and by the time they get to the 2nd and 3rd expansion it has changed so much they lose interest.  Each expansion has to “one up” the next.

  7. ChrisMc_AU says

    We’re excited about TOR hitting 2 million users, so i don’t think WoW dropping to a measly 10.2 million is that bad. It’s doing well for it’s age. Interesting to see how many subscribers they gain or lose with Mists though.

    Having said that, there is a fanboy inside me that wants TOR to one day topple WoW!

    Props to David for presenting a balanced article.

  8. bahl isvet says

    lol what a troll

  9. Jason_1975 says

    I think Blizzard has been planning this layoff for quite a while.  They’ve been making a lot of the customer service issues that take a lot of time – account restoration, security issues, guild leadership changes – automated.

    I think they’re also looking around at the much lower level support offered by the competition and wondering if they need as much staff as they do to stay competitive.  

    Of course TOR has some impact on WoW.  My wife and I are one example.  We “tried” SWTOR at launch, and just decided we didn’t have the time to dedicate to 2 games.  We ended up switching to SWTOR, not because it was “so much better” but that it was a brand new experience for us after 4+ years on Wow.

    In the end, this linear “will X kill Wow” thinking is really silly.  More competition will incite more creativity from Blizzard as it struggles to keep it’s top spot.  In turn, competitors will try and out maneuver Blizzard in other ways, Blizz will respond, etc.

    This is a good thing!!    

  10. SWTOR is losing active players more quickly than Warhammer Online did.  I don’t think SWTOR will fail, but its not going to reach its full potential by any means.  First impressions are everything, and while some players may come back, many others will not.  SWTOR was “released too soon” because they wasted an exorbitant amount of money on voice acting and didn’t develop any endgame.  When you play SWTOR you realize that the storyline and singleplayer was highly developed while the gameplay and abilities were just thrown together.  Additionally, the engine they chose to use is quite buggy.

  11. I feel that about 1 million of the unsubscribes to Wow are due to Swtor, considering some people never canceled, and still play both games.  The other 800,000 or so is due to WoW deciding to go the “panda” route…. lol    I’ve heard complaints from a lot of people concerning “the new expansion” and most feel it doesn’t warrant a purchase, meaning most people have found something else to move on to.

  12. lotro!!!!!!!!!