World of Warcraft [official site] now “only” has 5.5 million subscribers, a considerable decrease from the game’s peak but still nearly a Scotlands-worth of people paying a monthly fee direct into the coffers of Activision and Blizzard. Blizzard also say this is the last time they’re going to announce subscriber numbers.
In Activision’s quarterly earnings call, which Seeking Alpha transcribed, chief financial officer Dennis Durkin said that “this is the last quarter that we plan to provide the subscriber number as there are other metrics that are better indicators of the overall Blizzard business performance.” That’s a nice way of saying ‘we’re tired of doomsaying articles being written across the internet every three months.’
The subs figures at the last quarterly report were 5.6 million, with 7.1 million before that and a solid 10 mil around the release of the last expansion. Before that it was losing anywhere between 500,000 and 1 million per quarter, getting as low as 6.8 million in the second quarter of 2014.
That makes it hard to predict what the future holds for the game in terms of figures, and even harder to work out how much money it’s making when “subscribers” can refer to people paying monthly, six-monthly, using pre-paid cards, and “internet game room players who have accessed the game over the last thirty days,” as explained in the report itself. In some ways, there are better metrics for judging the game’s business performance – although I wouldn’t expect them to suddenly be used, unless they make the game look good.
Either way: it still has more subscribers than any other subscription-based MMO can claim, and likely will for a while yet.