Subscription based MMOs are on a rapid decline, as far as revenue is concerned. This is what the takeaway point is from a new SuperData market research report that delineates the subscription-based MMO model and its revenue from 2013.
Nevertheless, at the top of the pack of sub-based MMOs is World of Warcraft, still pulling an impressive amount of weight at $1.03 billion in revenue for Activision Blizzard in 2013, according to the SuperData report, as noted on GamesIndustry.biz.
The most telling of the information was laid bare in a chart that details the statistics and how much each MMO took in. You can check it out in the image below.
As you can see, the subscription-based model is no longer the king over the MMO genre the way it once was.
This was further pointed out in the GI.biz article, as they wrote...
“Overall, revenue from subscriptions has dropped every year since 2010 - from 30.6 million subscribers to 23.4 million subscribers this year. MMO publishers have managed to partially offset this decline with the introduction of free content, more payment tiers and microtransactions.”
The introduction of microtranstions and in-app purchases within subscription-based models hasn't always gone over well. However, the reality is that the sub-based payment model is suffering at the hands of other higher-quality games offering players free-to-play options without the monthly subs. Games like War Thunder and Warframe have introduced players to high-quality, AAA-level gameplay, graphics and playability without all the cut corners or monthly payment models.
During a time where the economy is still in a down-turn, and many regions haven't recovered, it's not impossible to see why gamers – who are typically not of the affluent kind – would flock more-so toward options that are lenient on their wallets. The massive, and continued, drop of subscription-based players over the years is a telling sign of the changing industry.
Some publishers and content providers seem more adept to adapting than others, but in the case of Activision Blizzard and World of Warcraft, they've been at the forefront of experimenting with all sorts of content, graphical and accessory upgrades to appease newcomers and old-school subscribers alike, consistently introducing new expansion packs, mounts, character alterations and more, in an attempt to keep their subscription model intact.
In fact, the company's latest effort is the Warlords of Draenor expansion, giving players new mounts and content to play around with. So far, no other publisher has been able to top Blizzard with World of Warcraft, and companies like EA and Square Enix have consistently come up short with their titles, such as Star Wars: The Old Republic (which had to switch to a free-to-play model) and Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn (which had to get a complete overhaul and re-release due to being so poorly received the first time around). More than anything, this shows a great resilience for the Warcraft brand in the MMO space, especially standing tall against all oncomers and dealing with the changing tides of the market's economy.