WoW Subscriber Numbers – The Rollercoaster

Given all the MMO News over the past month, one piece of news slipped under the radar for me.

Thanks to my colleague Simon I’m now aware that World of Warcraft subscriber numbers dropped to 9.1 million, down from 10.2 million at the end of the first quarter of the year.

That’s a big drop, even for a behemoth like Blizzard, but I see it as part of the rollercoaster ride that WoW still has to complete over the coming years. There’s obviously Mists of Pandaria coming up in a matter of weeks, and my money is on a lift in subscribers. That said, it’s a case of diminishing returns in that it won’t boost the subscriber numbers up to their peak, instead providing a needed climb on the rollercoaster before the next drop.

Aside from the realities of an ageing MMO, WoW faces the broader challenge as a subscription-driven game in a challenging economic environment world-wide. Still, I still can’t see WoW going F2P for quite a while, unless its numbers drop a few more million. Even then it’ll probably come down to what the break-even point is as far as subscriber numbers, as well as whether Titan has any firmer timelines as you’d expect a big migration to that from WoW players, depending on the genre it ends up being.

In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if Titan itself becomes a subscription service, with a ‘free’ WoW subscription bundled in. Sounds a bit old-school for an MMO still a long way off being released, but you never know.

Overall, it’s hard to see the drop to 9.1 million subscribers as being too catastrophic (yes, I thought about using the word cataclysmic) at the end of a content cycle. If I were a betting person I’d predict numbers will break 10 million again once the expansion drops.As a WoW subscriber that isn’t at all excited about the Monk class or Pandarians, I’m still damn pumped to be playing the new content when it’s released.

Most importantly of all: what do you think? Are you pumped or indifferent about MoP? What do you see subscriber numbers for the game doing in coming months? Do you want to sign up for a Titan / WoW subscription bundle now or do you think I’m certifiably mad?


  1. Most of our WoW guild unsubscribed around the time ToR came out, although a few of us got suckered into the Subscribe for a Year for Free Diablo III deal.

    For most of us, ToR has dwindled to barely anyone on, and most of us had our Diablo fix, so we’ve actually seen a burst of people re-subscribing to WoW in preparation for Pandaria.

  2. Although I don’t play this game anymore, more than likely they will see an increase of subscribers when MoP comes out, but then it will drop again shortly after. I see GW2 keeping a lot of people around.

  3. You can’t overlook the fact that WoW is at the end of an expansion cycle. that tends to see a large drop in subscription numbers as the content becomes stale. WoW will recover with the launch of Mists and probably increase its overall numbers.

  4. It’s true that any dip in subscribers is bad, but WoW has had some competition from other games such as SWTOR, The Secret World, League of Legends and even D3! I wouldn’t be surprised if Blizz brought D3 out purposely just to keep WoW fans busy whilst the expansion was being cooked up, so a drop in subscribers would seem likely! Like you’ve said, it’s more than likely that the number will go up again for the MoP release and will probably dip when the content has been exhausted and GW2 comes out. 

    I reckon WoW still has a few more years left in it for now!

  5. Barracuta9 says

    I can’t see myself returning for MoP. Totally my opinion, but between Pandas and Pokemon, I just think this game has completely jumped the shark. 

  6. Keith Goodwin says

    Not excited, I highly doubt I’ll enjoy it. But I’ve returned and started leveling alts for like an hour a night. I doubt wow will ever excite me like it did during vanilla and BC. But I’ll play it and un-sub if I clear the first raid after only being level cap for a week like I did in Cata. 

    • Great point on the end content Keith – one of the things I loved about raids like Ulduar is that there was no risk of clearing very quickly


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    […] Blizzard is not only the best-known online gaming companies, it's also the biggest. World of Warcraft, its flagship title, has been seeing declining subscribers over the past couple years, yet it still holds a commanding lead in numbers. Over 9 million people currently pay the monthly fee to use Blizzard's servers and play online, according to The Oceanic Gamer. […]