World of Warcraft's rough year is getting even worse. Activision Blizzard revealed during their earnings call today that they lost 1.5 million subscribers in the past quarter.
There are now 5.6 million paying subscribers in WoW. That's nearly half of the subscriber total reported at the end of 2014, when the launch of Warlords of Draenor pushed the player base above 10 million. As MMO Champion notes, WoW hasn't had that few subscribers since sometime in 2006.
Earlier this year, Blizzard introduced a new in-game currency called WoW Tokens. Players can spend gold within the game to purchase these Tokens and then use them in lieu of paying a subscription fee. You would think this would account for the drop in subscribers. However, players using Tokens are actually included in the 5.6 million figure.
Activision Blizzard didn't seem too worried about the drop, though. They note that their other franchises are all doing well. They note that Blizzard now has the largest online player community they've ever had, thanks in part to newer games Hearthstone and Heroes of the Storm. Hearthstone, Heroes of the Storm and Bungie's Destiny combined now have 70 million registered players.
Diablo 3, meanwhile, passed the 30 million mark in global sales. They point to the recent release of D3 in China as part of the reason for a dip in WoW subscriptions there.
WoW subscribers generally return when the game receives new content. For example, the player population jumped up by 2 million in the months leading up to Warlords of Draenor. Blizzard seems confident that the next expansion, set to be announced this week, will bring back players as well. In the meantime, they say that the recently released patch 6.2 has stabilized the game's population.
While I don't doubt the game's population will get a bounce from this new expansion, we could see a lot more subscribers leave before then. The expansion could be up to a year away if we're only hearing about it now. While patch 6.2 has players' attention now, how long will that last? Will players stick around without any new raids to look forward to during this expansion?
Blizzard noted that they now have more developers working on WoW than ever before. Hopefully that means that they'll be able to release expansion and future updates at a quicker rate. The faster they can release quality content for the game, the more likely they are to retain subscribers each month.
Another bright spot in WoW's future is the Warcraft movie. Activision Blizzard thinks that the film could increase interest in the franchise and potentially bring new players to the game.