WoW’s Continued Sunset Shines Bright For Blizzard’s Future

Blizzard's future isn't WoW

World of Warcraft has once again lost more “subscribers” in a few months than most (close to all) MMOs could ever dream of having. They dropped something like 3 million subscribers in a three month period, marking the sharpest decline in the history of the game. I think they remain at a lowly 7.1 million? All according to plan.

Over the years I have been saying that WoW’s slow decline is in Blizzard’s best interest, and a decline in WoW subscribers is ultimately beneficial for them financially, and realistically their goal. You’d think I was crazy back then given the responses I got in the comments, but look at the landscape of Blizzard’s revenue stream now.

Looking at Blizzard’s financials, over 40% of their revenue stream came from non-WoW games, and that’s estimated to exceed 50% this year. I bet that by the time Overwatch launches, their non-WoW revenue will be closing in on the 70% mark. Blizzard is diversifying, and the money isn’t in WoW anymore, or at least for much longer. They’ve said it themselves, “Strong recurring franchise diversification is in process inside the Blizzard portfolio, which sets us up for a bright 2016 and beyond.”

This diversification is not only a great business move for Blizzard, but a great outlook for us players. We get more games to enjoy in a variety of flavors, and we’ll start to see developers trying new things in order to appeal to the new ‘variety is the spice of life’. Soon, one day, there will no longer be just one giant behemoth of a game strangling the MMO industry. Mark my words, we are returning to an era where there are fewer players per game with more games available offering a variety of playstyles. This day is coming; it must come.

The sun never sets on Blizzard’s empire. So yes, WoW’s decline is good for Blizzard. Those players can now be transitioned into other titles where they will spend more money more often. All according to plan indeed.

  • Reducing the focus on WoW is definitely for the best. Maybe one day we’ll actually get Warcraft 4?! Who knows. Even Diablo III seemed like a bust because it tried to be like if WoW was an ARPG.

  • @Gringar: I have a feeling Warcraft 4’s announcement isn’t too far in our future. As far as D3 goes, it was indeed a bust initially. But if you pay attention to what Blizzard is doing now, they just launched the Beta in China. I think they’ve already made a ton of money on it.

  • I am still playing. So sick of Garrison tasks I am mainly not doing them at all anymore, but I am looking forward to most of the changes proposed in 6.2. Particularly, Tanaan Jungle, Timewalking and Mythic difficulty 5-mans.

    I did my first 15 man raid last night (that wasn’t LFR anyway) and it was fun, but it kind of reminded me why I don’t have the time or patience to do that on a regular basis anymore. A lot of standing around waiting to fill empty spots and afkers, then wiping repeatedly. Although it felt great once we downed the boss. This is one reason why I am looking forward to Mythic difficulty. Hopefully, all of the challenge of a raid without all of the logistics of getting 15 people to get their shit together.

    I am not sure I follow your analysis regarding the “decline” of WoW. I think Blizzard’s strategy is ultimately one of merely acknowledging the reality and planning for it, rather than a deliberate effort to phase out WoW.

  • I give them more credit. To notice a reality and plan for it is reactionary. I think they’ve not only planned for it but are deliberately seeing that Hearthstone, Overwatch, and those types of games are more profitable. If they can spend less and make more via these other avenues, wouldn’t it make sense to phase out (strategically and slowly) something that is more expensive?

    I’m not saying they’re dropping WoW cold, ignoring it, or even going to support it less. I think they are actively looking for ways to make more money, and as a result they’ll actively look for ways to switch their playerbase to an area where they can remain more profitable for a longer period of time. It’s an act that will indirectly sunset WoW.

  • It would make sense if they wanted to make a Warcraft 4, but I doubt they will any time within the next few years. Their RTS market is still being dominated by StarCraft, and why would they want to compete with themselves.

    They won’t want to pull attention away from Overwatch with an announcement of a new RTS. There have been rumblings about a new D3 expansion but I’m skeptical about that as well.

    Crystal ball time:
    Blizcon which is set to be Nov 7th will announce a new WoW expansion, Hearthstone Expansion, Season 5/6 details for D3,( expansion?), Hype for the end of SC2 w/ release of Void whatever, and a beta or whatever for Overwatch.

  • I remain unconvinced this is a good thing for me as a gamer… I have played both Hearthstone and Heroes of the Storm, and neither one offer a fraction of the entertainment that WotLK or vanilla WoW did (or even MoP). If their new business model is to milk morons, good on them I guess. I can always find another hobby.

  • Hearthstone is killing it by the way – 30 million players! That crushes WoW. Even heroes had 10 million beta signups.

    Those 3 million subs can easily be attributed to all the people that quit WoW sometime since Wrath and came back to the promises of “old WoW returning” in WoD. Well, after 3 months of WoD they all realized old WoW was not in fact anywhere close to being back, that Draenor was actually pretty content light, and garrisons kind of suck.

    Its clear that MMOs are turning back into a niche pre-WoW market (or they were always niche and WoW was just a blip) When was the last time a AAA MMO was considered a success? I think FFXIV:ARR might be the only one since WoW and that was a do-over. All the MMOs we are looking forward to are super niche kickstarters or emulations/redos of 15 year old games. What investor in their right mind would invest in an MMO right now?

  • I actually like this, Hearthstone has become on of my main games, mainly because you can take a half hour here, a half hour there and get a couple games in each time, and you feel like you are making progress with less time put in. Plus I always have loved deckbuilding in any card game.

    As for heroes, I am back and forth on it, but I do play it and it is a good game, but something about it gets old a lot quicker than dota or league, for me at least. I think it has to do with there being no fun screw around mode in it, like in LoL when I get bored of ranked I can go play a few arams for fun or whatever.

    Diablo 3, while initially a bust, has come a long why and right now I think is an amazing game. They did the same thing they did when Diablo 2 came out… brought out a game that was only mediocre (though I admit still better than d3 at launch) and through patches made it better and better, then an expansion which sealed it as a stellar game. I would love to see another expansion and continued support for D3 since the game as it is now is one of the most enjoyable ARPG’s out there (for me, but then unlike most I hate PoE, never did like all classes having the same kill tree and just starting in different places).

    I do agree that they are moving away from WoW, and it shows. I haven’t played WoD but I know from talking to a friend that they seem to be coming out with end-game content much slower still, leading to long periods of time when people have completed raids and have nothing else to do besides the usual daily/grindy stuff.

  • They make quality games and people play them. When you do that a large overall strategy is not needed.

  • I agree with Jadawin.

    Also, I really don’t enjoy the fighting game / dota clone genre featre which is a list of wacky characters. Having “gorilla man vs western guy vs angel vs robot” bleed into fps does nothing for me at all.

  • I have recently stopped playing my go to game, CSGO in favour of Heroes of the Storm, I am pretty much hooked. It has great potential is is really competing effortlessly with LOL and Dota.

    Eagerly awaiting Overwatch, Blizzard will stay a staple favourite for the foreseeable future

  • I burned out on Diablo 3 within a month of release, but I picked it back up on the PS4 with the Ultimate Evil Edition. It really has come a long way since launch. Much stronger game now.