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World of Warcraft earns over $1 billion a year

According to statistics from SuperData Research, World of Warcraft still dominates the MMO market with 36% market share. The game raked in just over a billion dollars in revenue in 2013, putting it well ahead of its nearest competition -- $253 million for NCSoft's 1998 title Lineage. The ranking of top subscription titles suggests that MMOs need staying power -- WoW is nearly 10 years old and Lineage is 16 -- and a strong Asian presence -- the top 3 are all big titles in Asia -- to sustain them over the long haul.

However, even though WoW continues to pull in strong subscription numbers, the industry has seen the subscription model declining sharply while microtransaction revenue has been on an upswing. With both a healthy subscriber base and its own microtransaction strategy, WoW seems prepared to succeed no matter which direction the industry goes. However, the overall subscription trend begs the question: will we ever see a free-to-play version of WoW? Blizzard has said no, and with subscription stats like this we can see why.

Filed under: Blizzard, News items

WoW Archivist: Expansion gaps

Gap in the bridge on the Timeless Isle
WoW Archivist explores the secrets of World of Warcraft's past. What did the game look like years ago? Who is etched into WoW's history? What secrets does the game still hold?

Expansion gaps are the most reviled of all content gaps. It's not just because they are the longest -- it's because at the other end of the gap lies so much to look forward to. Expansions change WoW from top to bottom. They usher in brand new worlds to explore and bring us new ways to play the game. That's part of why it takes Blizzard so long to release them.

In the meantime, we wait, mired in the old, but excited about the new.

We are experiencing what is likely to be the longest expansion gap so far in WoW's 10-year history. But what about the expansion gaps of the past? How do they stack up? What did Blizzard offer and what were players' reactions to them? Read on to find out!

Classic WoW to The Burning Crusade

Dates: August 22, 2006 to January 16, 2007
Duration: 4 months, 25 days
Subscriptions: Rising
Mood: Excited

The first expansion gap was also the shortest. It felt like a long time to players back then, since classic WoW offered patches and content at a blistering pace for the first two years of the game. Players were impatient, yes. That never changes. But we knew WoW was a hit and we were thrilled that the success of the game had made an expansion possible. We couldn't wait to roll a blood elf or a draenei, or take to the skies and fly for the first time. Plus, most raiding guilds hadn't conquered every boss (or even close), so they had plenty to keep them busy.

Read more →

Filed under: WoW Archivist

Activision earnings call offers more insight on WoW subscriber losses

In addition to the news that Titan may not be subscription-based, today's Activision investor call also shed some light on WoW's most recent round of subscriber losses. Blizzard says that the subscriber loss was more or less evenly split between Eastern and Western markets, which is to say that they've lost subscribers in North America, Europe, and Asia. However, patch 5.2 and 5.3 both had a positive impact on subscriber numbers and Blizzard is working on making returning to the game easier for players who have left.

While there's been a lot of panic over the subscriber losses, Blizzard isn't throwing in the towel yet: in this call they assured everyone that they're committed to the World of Warcraft playerbase (that's us!) in spite of the subscriber downturn and other projects like Titan on the horizon.

Filed under: Blizzard, News items

Blizzard says Titan unlikely to be subscription-based

No, Blizzard still hasn't made an official announcement about what we can expect from their upcoming Titan project -- which we've heard little about since its development was reset back in May. We still don't know much, but in an investor call today Mike Morhaime did say that Titan was "unlikely to be a subscription-based MMORPG."

Of course, that still leaves plenty of room to speculate about what Titan actually will be. Will it be a free-to-play MMO or has Titan become something new entirely? With no official release date, only time will tell what Blizzard has in mind.

Filed under: Blizzard, News items

World of Warcraft loses 1.3M subscribers since February, down to 8.3M

WoW loses 13 million subscribers since Feb down to 8 mil
Today's Activision-Blizzard financial reports states World of Warcraft took a subscriber hit this quarter, losing 1.3 million players since February.

The loss brings the total number of WoW players down to 8.3 million, its lowest level since the launch of the Burning Crusade expansion in 2007. Subscriber levels have fallen by about a third since WoW's post-Cataclysm peak of 12 million subscribers. The loss is hardly unusual -- you have to remember that WoW is a 9-year-old game, and we're at a pretty uninteresting time in the expansion cycle.

Have we mentioned yet that we're really excited to see if Blizzard is announcing a new MMO at BlizzCon?

Filed under: Blizzard, The Burning Crusade, BlizzCon, Cataclysm, Mists of Pandaria

Breakfast Topic: Is your WoW subscription currently inactive?

Breakfast Topic Is your WoW subscription currently inactive
WoW Insider readers are a curious bunch. Among the WoW community, WoW Insider seems to have gathered a disproportionately large number of readers who religiously follow game news, editorials, and features yet don't actively play. Sometimes they have no intention of playing again any time soon, but they love the game and the game community enough that they enjoy keeping up with the latest developments on at least a semi-regular basis.

Probably every reader who's glanced at the comments has noticed That Guy who doesn't play anymore but who complains bitterly about everything he feels is wrong. (Usually, the commenter's sense of wrongness extends from the game to WoW Insider and even the post author themselves. We actually don't consider a WI blogger to be seasoned until he or she has been called "everything that's wrong with WoW Insider/WoW today.") These bitter old retirees are often the butts of mockery for their inability to let go of a game they once held dear. Personally, I cut these guys some slack; they're sad because the game has moved on in a way that no longer suits them, yet they just can't let go of the game they love.

But it's not just the grumpy old-timers who stick around WoW Insider long after their game accounts have gone dark. Plenty of players find themselves on WoW sabbaticals and leaves with some regularity, frequently due to the seasonal demands of work or school. For others, their subscription periods ebb and flow in relation to their personal finances.

Are you an inactive WoW player?
Sound off here if your WoW game account is currently inactive!2590 (38.9%)
I'm active -- just show me the poll results.4068 (61.1%)


If your WoW subscription isn't currently active, tell us why you continue to keep up with the game and if and when you intend to play again.

Filed under: Breakfast Topics

Breakfast Topic: How much would you pay for a lifetime membership to WoW?

Breakfast Topic Would you pay for a lifetime membership to WoW
Do you suppose we'll ever get the option to purchase a lifetime subscription to World of Warcraft? What about even a lifetime Blizzard game pass? The advantages are many. Obviously, you'd save money once you played past the regular subscription value of the lifetime option. You'd be free from worries about billing and payments. It's likely you'd enjoy perks reserved for lifetime members, as well -- perhaps a special mount or title.

Me, I'd like knowing as a lifetime member that I'd made an investment in the game and the company that created it. It's a way to ensure not only that the WoW content keeps coming but that Blizzard itself remains healthy. A lifetime membership would cement my emotional attachment to the game while at the same time relieving the stress I sometimes feel to log on "just to get my money's worth." During times when I'm especially busy or even disinterested in the current content, as a lifetime member, I'd feel less pressured to log in simply to avoid wasting my regular subscription fee.

Of course, this late in the game's life cycle, there's always a risk that you might fall out of love with WoW or fall in love with another game after you'd already paid for a lifetime membership. What if all your friends and guildmates left? Heck, what if WoW became free-to-play, leaving you with adjusted perks you didn't particularly appreciate?

Would you take advantage of a lifetime membership to WoW if it were ever offered? What benefits would capture your interest? And how much would you be willing to pay for a lifetime subscription to World of Warcraft?

Filed under: Breakfast Topics

Breakfast Topic: Sorting out multiple-account and -character finances

Let's face it, the way we pay for WoW affects the way we play the game. So for us WoW-playing families, altaholics, and multiboxers, how about brainstorming some ways to nudge Blizzard into offering solid multiple-account discounts? Every single member of my family has played WoW at some point, and we might reactivate some of those accounts if there were a discount designed to keep family groups on the active rosters together.

Of course, any discount system would need a way to prevent farmers and groups of players from trying to co-op their way to cheaper subscriptions. I believe there's currently a limit on how many accounts can be paid by a single credit card. What other checks and balances could you put on a discount system to keep it fair? Can we think of ways to set reasonable limits without requiring onerous levels of identification and verification?

And what about the economics of server transfers? It seems logical that there be a financially reasonable alternative for moving an entire realm's worth of characters from one realm to another -- or at least some discount for multiple characters. I know so many players who categorically rule out transfers that would improve their quality of life (scheduling, realm population, raiding groups, friendships...) because they can't afford to move all the characters they've grown to love. Give us your ideas! Because when it comes to our characters in WoW, it unfortunately takes more than love to keep us together.

Filed under: Breakfast Topics

Breakfast Topic: Would you play WoW differently if there were no monthly subscription fee?

Breakfast Topic Would you play WoW differently if there were no monthly subscription fee
Maybe you're one of those players who drop in and out of World of Warcraft as their waxing and waning interest dictates. Perhaps you play through whatever content interests you, then bail out until something fresh comes along. That's an outlook I can't pull off. I never could synchronize my subscription payments with my interest, and paying for the game one month at a time for as many years as I've played WoW seems practically criminal.

But what if WoW didn't have a subscription rate at all? What if it were free to play, either from the outset or for players who'd subscribed a certain amount of time? My guess is that a lot more players would feel free to drop out for real life, for waning interest, for all sorts of reasons. What if there were a lifetime membership plan? Would you still feel obligated to regularly log in and bang out your money's worth, or would you feel more likely to take a break when you felt like it?

I'm interested in how this whole bang-for-your-buck dynamic plays out at your house. I sense a fair amount of angst amongst gamers over the cost of a gaming computer and the cost of their WoW subscriptions, but I don't hear anything even remotely resembling that among TV owners who pay for cable or subscription services such as Netflix or Hulu Plus. How would you compare the value you feel you get from WoW against the value you get from your other entertainment expenditures? How would that balance change if you no longer had to pay to play WoW?

Filed under: Breakfast Topics

How Blizzard's over-caution saved it from a PR nightmare

Image
Pop law abounds in The Lawbringer, your weekly dose of WoW, the law, video games and the MMO genre. Mathew McCurley takes you through the world running parallel to the games we love and enjoy, full of rules, regulations, and esoteroic topics that slip through the cracks.

The Titanic was the largest cruise ship ever built. It was proclaimed to be unsinkable, defying natural laws to those who did not understand how the behemoth could float. In the end, the Titanic sunk not because she was a weak ship but because the ship tried to turn from an iceberg, causing catastrophic hull damage. If the ship had plowed through the iceberg and not changed course, there is a greater chance it could have avoided catastrophe.

While comparing Blizzard to the Titanic doesn't exactly evoke a positive connotation, it should. The Titanic sunk because of mistakes made. Blizzard's conservative game design attitude and philosophy have served it well -- being open to change and modification while holding on to the core concepts of WoW and trying not to deviate in profound, risky ways. The risk sometimes works -- transmogrification, void storage, Raid Finder, Real ID (and soon Battletags), etc. Sometimes, the risk doesn't exactly lead to the best reward -- the Real ID debacle, the vocal hardcore minority and Cataclysm heroics, and the Dance Studio. Blizzard understands that the juggernaut cannot turn too quickly, or it risks the type of deep, jagged incision that sinks the unsinkable.

Read more →

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, The Lawbringer

Don't panic about those WoW Magazine subscription renewal notices

We got some reports through Twitter and the tip line that current subscribers to the World of Warcraft Official Magazine had received notices asking them to resubscribe. Several people, especially those who ordered subscriptions and haven't yet received their four issues, took this to mean that their subscription had lapsed and that they wouldn't be receiving any more issues unless they resubscribed. This is not the case! We contacted Andy Salisbury, editor at the mag, and he had this to say:
The email is just a reminder. Those that paid for 1 and 2 year subscriptions will get their 4 and 8 issues (respectively), regardless of timing. We're not going to hold anyone's issues hostage or anything of the sort, it's just meant to let subscribers know about renewal!
So don't panic. The email was just intended as an "if you like the WoW magazine, resubscribe to it!" notice, not as a notification that you won't be getting what you paid for. Thanks to Andy for getting back to us so promptly.

Filed under: News items

Breakfast Topic: What story does your WoW subscription history tell?

This article has been brought to you by Seed, the Aol guest writer program that brings your words to WoW.com.

Some of us have been addicted to World of Warcraft from the beginning. Like me, some of you may have been addicted at the start but wavered off and on over the years. Alternately, some World of Warcraft players have only joined the world recently. A quick look at an account's payment history (found in account management on the World of Warcraft website) can provide an interesting tale regarding a player's obsession (or lack thereof) with World of Warcraft.

Personally, looking back at my payment history brought back memories of World of Warcraft as well as the games that sought to tear me away from Azeroth.

The journey (not the one shown in the screenshot above) started on Nov. 28, 2004, five days after the first adventurers had stepped foot into retail Azeroth. At that time, it took me a year and a half (non-/played of course) to get to 60. I suppose that could be considered to be an incredibly casual rate of levelling -- but eh, the times were simpler back then. That first chunk lasted until March 14, 2007. Still, after nearly two and a half years of enjoyment in Azeroth, I found myself pulled away to other pursuits, one of which was most likely one of my numerous forays into the complexity that is EVE Online. These distractions kept me away from the World of Warcraft for another year and a half, until I returned on Sept. 16, 2008.

I do not specifically remember, nor can I explain, my return to Azeroth. Alas, it was not to last. After that initial monthly subscription, my time in Azeroth is blank until a later date. Perhaps this was the time that I found myself drawn into Warhammer Online, an intriguing alternative to Azeroth that would ultimately prove to be no match for the appeal that World of Warcraft presented to me. I made my second-to-last return on May 18, 2009. This would be a four-month stint in which I would find myself levelling both my druid and my death knight to level 80 and getting them partially geared, before yet again dropping off the face of Azeroth on Sept. 23, 2009. The game that most describes this last absence? Global Agenda.

This brings us to my most recent return on March 2, 2010. I have spent the past two months getting sufficiently geared to be able to jump into 10-man ICC with my guild, and we have almost already conquered the zone. To bring the story full circle, it is important to note that I recently transferred my night elf hunter, created all the way back at the beginning of my journey, to my main's server in order to finally get him to 80. (He has been languishing in the mid-60s for the past few years.)

The above is what my subscription history says about me as a World of Warcraft player and a gamer and general. What does your subscription history say about you?

Have you ever wanted to write for WoW.com? Your chance may be right around the corner. Watch for our next call for submissions for articles via Seed, the Aol guest writer program that brings your words to WoW.com. The next byline you see here may be yours!



Filed under: Breakfast Topics, Guest Posts

PAX East 2010: Turbine on renting vs. owning in the MMO market

Blizzard's presence at PAX East 2010 was even smaller than I was expecting, with two or so Community reps there to oversee the StarCraft II tournaments going on. Boston-based Lord of the Rings Online developer Turbine, though, had a very large demo area which saw a lot of traffic over the course of the three-day event. Con-goers could stop by and demo LotRO, as well as Dungeons & Dragons Online: Eberron Unlimited, and hobnob with the Community reps and developers present.

With the WoW-specific news at the event registering somewhere between "literally nothing" and "nearly nothing" on the newsy scale, I decided to stop by Turbine and ask them a few questions about their MMOs. I ended up speaking with their Design Director, Ian Currie.

"I'm from WoW.com," I said, "so obviously I don't normally do a lot of reporting on your games. In fact, I'm not sure I've ever even played DDO, and I've only played a little bit of LotRO."

Currie smiled and said "You really don't know what you're missing, then, do you!"

"Apparently not," I acquiesced, "but maybe you can help fill in the blanks."

Read more →

Filed under: Events, Interviews

WoW Magazine now shipping

Several people have told us via our feedback page that they have received theirWorld of Warcraft Official Magazine in the mail. Last month, we got to see the preview and now many subscribers already have them in hand.

The WoW Magazine is a quarterly publication that is available via subscription only. U.S. subscriptions begin at $39.95 for a year and subscriptions are available to other countries at different rates. Our tipsters have described the magazine as having a graphic novel feel to them.

Did you subscribe to the magazine? If so, have you received your copy? We would love to read your reviews in the comments if you have.

Filed under: News items

Facebook vs. World of Warcraft

They both have millions of users across the world. They both have made and broken friendships and relationships, and they both have raised millions if not billions of dollars for their respective companies. And chances are that they're both so popular even your grandma knows about them. Gamasutra has written an interesting post comparing both World of Warcraft and Facebook of all things, and they say that the two are more alike than you might think: both enable you to create an identity, and use that identity to interact with others, and both give you a wide variety of options to do so (in WoW, you can slay dragons together, and on Facebook, you can tag pictures or post on walls). Gamasutra wants to get to the center of where exactly the interactivity lies, and in doing so, figure out what makes Warcraft a game, and Facebook a network.

One major difference is in the interface -- obviously, WoW is wrapped in a fantasy world, so that in between all of the socializing, you're also fighting the Scourge or the Burning Crusade. Facebook has games, but it doesn't have that overarching narrative. WoW also rewards group teamwork and coordination, while Facebook leaves collaboration to its own rewards. And of course the cost is another big difference: WoW is still a subscription game, while Facebook pays in other ways. But the amount of similarities between the two are pretty fascinating. And comparing the two, as Gamasutra does, really makes you think about just what interactivity means, and how two apparently very different types of interactive media aren't that far apart after all.

Filed under: WoW Social Conventions, Virtual selves, Blizzard, Forums

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