Updated Thu, May 26, 2011 by Xerin
It’s no joke that people are currently unsubscribing from World of Warcraft and there is this general feeling within the community that some players may not be enjoying the game like they once were. Others believe that it’s only natural for those who returned for the expansion to quit, like they always do, in between patches. There is a lot of speculation as to what is happening and if anyone should worry and even more uncertainty when it comes to the reasons behind the loss in subscribers.
Let’s look at the facts. Blizzard has lost 600,000 subscribers since Cataclysm launched. If we use the North American pricing scheme that comes to almost 900,000 in lost subscription fees and potential revenue from their premium services. This is a pretty drastic loss in subscribers and has gotten a lot of arm chair professionals talking about why this is happening.
There is a lot of speculation out there. For instance, Rift is destroying WoW currently, that Cataclysm is too hard, that Cataclysm is boring, or some other obscure paranoid theories like Blizzard is lying about the numbers or people are leading some kind of mass exodus from WoW. I’m not big on the silly stuff so let’s take a look at some of the real reasons this is happening.
A lot of players who had quit the game came back for Cataclysm only to meet disappointment. They thought the game changed drastically and the reason that they quit playing was now gone. They bought the expansion, logged in, leveled up, and found the same reasons that they quit before still existing. Being unsatisfied, they unsubscribed until there is a new reason to play the game.
This is perfectly normal behavior in all games and WoW is no exception. As a matter of a fact, you can attribute a lot of those lost subscribers to this simple pattern. It happened with TBC and WoTLK and it’ll happen in all of the future expansions as well.
Cataclysm is hard and it started out gruelingly difficult and different. Healers were having mana problems because they were used to spamming heals to keep everyone up and heroics were (and still) remain difficult much like vanilla WoW’s content. Some heralded this as the start of a beautiful thing while others seen it as a huge bottleneck for them to chew through content.
So, of course, when you reach a point you can’t advance any further in the game you don’t see the reason to pay out the money for a subscription. While I don’t see this as being a big influence on the overall subscription loss, it’s still a part of it.