We Found the WoW Killer
Activision Blizzard announced over the weekend that the World of Warcraft subscription numbers continue to be in decline. After 80,000 subscribers jumped ship last quarter, this quarter they found their total numbers dwindle by another 1.2 million people, reducing the king of MMO’s to a “mere” 9.1 million subscribers, which still makes it the most popular MMORPG in the world…
…but the numbers show no signs of improving, even with Mists of Pandara’s September 25th launch date looming.
Hearing this news led me to a thought. Remember when people took the 2012 Mayan apocalypse predation seriously? There was a lot of talking about it a few months ago, and I remember watching a history channel special about the whole prophecy (and since it was from the history channel you know it’s legit) and what it could mean for us. They talked to both skeptics and believers, and while it was thoroughly uninteresting, one person did catch my ear. It was a believer who thought that the prediction didn’t mean the end of the world, per say, but the end of the world as we knew it. That the world would make a dramatic shift for the better and we’d only realize a few years down the line, after the fact, that it all started on December 21st, 2012.
Now think back to when World of Warcraft was in full swing—the gaming community was in a buzz, with fans relishing the game’s overwhelming popularity, while non-fans were hotly looking for the fabled WoW killer—the MMO that could challenge World of Warcraft’s monopoly on the MMORPG market, and dethrone it once and for all. Dozens of proclaimed “WoW killers” came and went: Rift, DC Universe Online, Age of Conan, Star Wars: The Old Republic, Guild Wars… but obviously none did the job.
But while the WoW killer never did show itself, something else did—not so much a WoW killer as much as it was a ‘venom’ to the subscription model MMORPG that has lead to its slow and steady decline–Free to Play. Famously, DC Universe Online switched to a free to play model and found their revenue increased by 400%. Age of Conan did something similar, and while it wasn’t quite the same degree of success they’re still in business despite mediocre initial sales. And Star Wars: The Old Republic has just recently announced their intention of switching to a free to play model too.
All of these free-to-play games and the sliding World of Warcraft numbers is what made me realize that World of Warcraft is just like the Mayan Apocalypse, according to that one believer—people spent years waiting for the prophesized WoW killer, and only now, looking back, can we see that the WoW’s killer has been here for a while now—its name is Free-to-Play, and it’s been slowly suffocating World of Warcraft under the thongs of players eager to save money.
Heck, it’s what pulled me away from WoW, too.
It’s not as dramatic as people may have liked: everyone would have liked to see two massive MMORPG’s battling for supremacy and subscriptions, offering content at a spitfire rate to try to get the edge on their competition—a frantic battle that WoW would eventually lose, causing it to dramatically crash and explode while “Mystery MMORPG X” walked away with its back turned to the explosion. But it looks like, assuming Mists of Pandara does nothing to reverse the process, the death of WoW will be nothing so fantastic…
This is the way the World of Warcraft ends: Not with a bang but a whimper.
- Blizzard games
- Massively multiplayer online game
- Massively multiplayer online role-playing games
- Video game genres
- Windows games
- World of Warcraft