WoW Subscriber Loss Helps Blizzard

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World of WarCraft loses a million subscribers, and contrary to popular belief I think this is a great thing for Blizzard.  In fact, I think this is what Blizzard wants.  I have always said (long before I began blogging in 2007)  that only Blizzard can kill WoW, and the only way people will stop playing WoW is if they have a Blizzard approved alternative.

World of WarCraft Burning Legion
Kil’Jaeden of The Burning Legion

Titan is on its way — probably being revealed at Blizzcon — and what a coincidence WoW is trending downward in what feels like a wrap-up.  Bobby Kotick came right out and said he expects numbers to decline even more in the coming months, and I’m absolutely in agreement.  Blizzard doesn’t want people being perfectly content in WoW.  Blizzard wants people chomping at the bit to play their next game.  This is how the hype cycle works.

A graceful conclusion is in WoW’s near future.  I think we’ll have an expansion focusing on The Burning Legion, and then something that feels more like a conclusion.  That gives them about 3-4 years (I think there’ a good chance they expedite it) before Titan, and plenty of time to wrap up the story.  After that, WarCraft 4 (RTS) can come out and I can be giddy about a dream come true.

And in the end, even if this decline isn’t what Blizzard wants, and my crazy marketing strategy really is crazy, they’ll still have to do something to address it which means players benefit every way you look at it.  That is the beauty of Blizzard.

  • This is some serious 1984 post. War is peace, peace is war, decreased profits are increased profits.

  • I have an other theory. Blizzard dump down wow to be extremely casual..Farmvile, pokemon, pandas…40-50 years old woman from facebook can play wow now. This is because they don’t want wow to be competitive to Titan, which I think will be niche MMO. They told that long ago, when they asked for, and they said that titan and wow will not compete each other.

    Expect Bugs Bunny to the next expansion.

  • Well obviously they don’t want a drop in revenue, but I really do think they want WoW to begin winding down so that they can begin transitioning to do new things with it.

    I wouldn’t be surprised at all if it does some new and innovative F2P conversion, and they are purposefully playing it cool with the loss of subs.

    Like I said, this could be a crazy idea and totally out there, but I think this is good for them for WoW to decline. If nothing else it forces them to try something new.

  • Think most of the loss was in the Asian market. Blizzards current philosophy on raiding, endgame, dailies, etc doesnt jive all that well with the raiding culture there.

  • And force everyone else to do something new as well. WoW cloning needs to end.

  • @Xenevore: I hadn’t looked at it from that angle. That’s completely true. Letting WoW die down lets Blizzard be in control of the next paradigm shift.

  • I think you are right but I think the timing might be off: pretty sure Titan wille be announced this year and out next year, 2015 at the latest.

    If I recall from the leaked “Release Slate” (which turned out to be legit.) that’s the sort of timeframe thay had for Titan.

    They’ve already been working on it for many years so can’t see another 4-5 years delay.

  • “This is because they don’t want wow to be competitive to Titan, which I think will be niche MMO.”

    Yea. Right. Blizzard will try to make a niche game. If we learned anything at all from WoW’s metamorphosis over the years, and the release of Diablo 3, it is that Blizzard lost that ability along the way.

  • I agree with Rawblin. Titan will be mass-appeal, and that supports my theory that Blizzard should take advantage of the natural lull to begin the hype for Titan and start down-playing/wrapping up WoW.

    @Intruder313: That’s true, it could be sooner than I think. I’d bet on 3 years, though, unless Blizzard has managed to make their entire game already. A year or two seems too quick.

  • I am not sure that Blizzard needs to build hype to garner a massive player base for Titan.

    Just being the heir to the WoW empire will be enough to get people pre-purchasing in droves.

  • Agreed, they don’t need massive help to get their usual love group (which is millions). However, I think they’re going for that ‘let’s redefine the industry’ move again. I would. I think it’s smart for them to position themselves as the only company in the entire industry that can define the direction everyone else takes. As a player, I hate it, but for them as a business it’s pure gold.

  • It would certainly be interesting to seriously plan out how to end the story of world of warcraft. Has any other MMO ever had that opportunity before? It seems like it was mostly games that started dying, clung to life for a long time then…ended.

    Having a story-ending in an MMO could be fulfilling.

  • @Sine Nomine: No, and that’s my point. No one gets to end their own games. Only Blizzard has that luxury.

  • So… the way the hype cycle works, in your opinion, is to begin by disenchanting millions of potential customers? Rather than keep them in love with your company and chomping at the bit for whatever you release next, you send them away frustrated and hope to buy them back later?

    I see the point you’re trying to make but it doesn’t line up with reality. Acti-Blizzard is a publically traded company. Their responsibility is to their share holders. Pissing away shareholders and driving down stock price isn’t something they will willingly do. Not when Blizzard is married to Activision, non-MMO publisher in a struggling games market, and not when they’re answering to a board of directors. I wouldnt be surprised if there was even legality issues related to this theory, since remaining investors would be losing money. Blizzard in essence would be defrauding them out of returns on their good faith investment. Adding to that Diablo 3 and SC2 not catching on (lacking the stickiness of their predecessors), this equating of lost good will with future sales is bizarro world logic.

    Titan will do well and Blizzard will want people to shift, but I doubt they will intentionally cannibalize WoW if they can help it. More than likely, they will both coexist and WoW will adopt a F2P model (Titan will likely launch with one).

  • @Keen’s reply to Sine: No. They don’t. Maybe they did before they went public. Unless they completely shut down, they are responsible to their share holders and the advisory/directorial board. I am honestly pretty surprised none of this occurred to you having earned a business degree.

  • No, the customers are disenchanting without any help from Blizzard. WoW is nearing a natural resolution and it’s only a matter of time.

    I’m not saying Blizzard should drive people away from WoW. They should use this natural lull to do what no other company has done with a MMO and do an official ‘wind down’ and natural transition from WoW to their next property.

    What I wouldn’t do is try to continue doing the same thing to bring people back. That’ll work short-term, but I think they could really put WoW on a new path and take advantage of their new game. If the new game can be more profitable for them — maybe cost more money per month — then that’s all the incentive they need to let WoW wind down.

    Shareholders don’t care how they get their money. They don’t care one iota about WoW itself. If winding down WoW and launching it on a new trajectory, while utilizing the same funnel to make more money on a new game, makes more money, they are meeting their obligation to their shareholders.

    I think they’ll put WoW F2P — I really do — and start the hype for Titan where they can make even more money with this new combination/model.

  • I can’t say I agree with anything in this post. There’s no way Blizzard wants people to stop playing WoW. Yes, subs are trending downward, but it still has many millions more paying customers than any other subscription MMO. There’s no way they’ll just end WoW with millions of people still playing. It’s just throwing money out the window.

    More importantly, we don’t know what Titan is. Your whole post assumes Titan is a direct competitor to WoW, but we don’t know that. We just know it is some kind of MMO. That doesn’t mean it’s set up to try and cannibalize WoW’s base. It’s much more likely that Titan is something different with a different appeal. After all, why make something that competes for WoW players when they already have WoW? It doesn’t make sense.

    The most important fact is that they don’t need WoW players to play Titan in order for it to be successful. Blizzard has confirmed several times that many more people have played and quit WoW than play it currently. Millions upon millions of people who were interested in an MMO but decided to leave WoW for whatever reason, and they’re ripe for the taking. Titan could have a larger playerbase than WoW without a single WoW player switching to Titan. Not to mention all the millions of other gamers who haven’t tried WoW who may try Titan.

    Blizzard current three major IPs all have their own niche and appeal to different customers, why would Titan be any different?

  • The only two things that would shock me about Titan would be if it’s launching anytime before 2015 or if it is NOT free to play. They’ve said all along that they’re not opposed to F2P but that it only makes sense if you design for it from the ground up. Their parent company’s experience selling Skylanders – and having people like K&G enthusiastically on board rather than decrying pay to win/nickel and diming – is the proof of concept. The only bad news is that a F2P model means they won’t be pocketing $60 for each account created as in DIII. It will only be a sure-thing WoW replacement if it is a hit an keeps people paying.

    If a major executive of a publicly traded company were to intentionally screw with a revenue stream that’s almost certainly worth mid-high hundreds of millions of dollars per year in the hopes that it will help sell this hypothetical future game…. that would not end well for them.

  • no way blizzard will make Titan free to play. They will for sure want that $60 box money coming in. So it could be buy to play like guild wars 2 (which i read sold 3 million copies) but no way will it be f2p with no box price

  • I see your point and appreciate the clarification. The share holder point you made still ignores the revenue loss and generally lowered public perception by allowing WoW to go into a lull this far out from Titan’s launch. I agree, they don’t care where the money comes from but it would be fiscally irresponsible to let WoW lull out without anything else to return on investment. Short of hearthstone and D3’s console port, what else do they have to fill that 1-2 years but WoW?

  • @Seriah: I think nothing will change in WoW for the next 3 years. They’ll continue their expansion cycle until Titan is able to move in. But the fact that the game is winding down without the game failing — it’s just naturaling winding down — is the opportunity. Use the fact that people are naturally ready to move on, release some great expacs that make a ridiculous amount of money, and then transition people.

    Let me clarify that I am in no way saying they should be like “well WoW is losing subs lets not care anymore and focus on something else.” I think my op came across that way unintentionally. I’m basically saying they should utilize the fact that they control the pacing of this industry. THey should see that players are ready to move on, capitalize on what’s left of the current state of WoW’s business model, then transition it to a model that won’t compete with Titan — a natural resolution to WoW. My point about losing subs being good for Blizzard is that this is a point where they can do something different to get the cash back — they don’t have to fight to bring WoW back to the same spot it has been at if they can take it a new direction. They have the luxury of trying something new… a luxury they have always had but have never had a reason to do until now — that’s why it’s good for them.

    @Green Armadillo/Bartillo: I see WoW going F2P and Titan either being the same sub model as WoW or being a hybrid.

  • I am not sure that Titan should be considered a competitor to WoW in the eyes of Blizzard anymore than Cherry Coke is a competitor to Original Coke in the eyes of the Coca-Cola Company.

  • It’s a Blizzard MMO — by nature it will be competing for the same number of players, but ideally the two combined will attract more than having just one. I guess my point is that they can let WoW take a different course (maybe a more profitable course) and let Titan take the place of WoW. Or vice versa.

  • “No one gets to end their own games. Only Blizzard has that luxury.”

    And when have we seen them retire a game recently?

    Diablo 1 – Still going
    Diablo 2 – Still going
    Warcraft 2 – Still going
    Warcraft 3 – Still going
    Starcraft 1 – Still going

    Even though obvious ‘replacement’ titles have come out, they have continued to support legacy customers and are still actively selling these titles.
    That suggests that the revenue streams justify the costs or provide marketing/goodwill for newer titles.

    Most of the posts I see analysing the recent loss of WoW subscribers make the following assumptions:

    1) All WoW players have the same profile
    2) All WoW players leave for similar reasons
    3) Therefore WoW players will continue to churn at the same rate for the foreseeable future

    I think people are neglected to recognise the fact that there is a considerable core base that are utterly addicted to the game and have a strong sense of investment/sunk costs that would stop them from moving.

    Even with a possible WoW2 launching, I don’t understand why Blizzard would not continue to accept revenues from these players. SoE will be milking EQ1 until the Earth is consumed by the Sun…

  • OMG, is this guy delusional. Lets just for a moment look at the glaring fallacy of the argument. We have 3 people fed up with what Blizz is doing and decide to quit WoW. One goes to a WoW clone, one quits gaming entirely and only played the last 2 xpacs just because they had a lot of invested time in the game, the last plays another game, say War Thunder or World of Tanks. Blizz then comes out with the replacement game. They have a good chance of getting player 1 back, no chance at player 2, and a slight chance at player 3. So with the best case possible, Blizz is getting maybe 2 players coming back not 3 and thus still have a net loss on this. One could further argue that they could in fact get no one back. Now if they got all 3 back what do they get, status quo which OP says Blizz does not want. Put down the Silverleaf and step away from the basement.