World of Warcraft subscriber numbers down again, but not as dramatically as you might think

World of Warcraft

This is not the first time we’ve written this news story, but it may be the last. Blizzard have decided not to announce WoW subscriber numbers again, nominally because “there are better metrics”, but presumably also because it’s not much fun to talk about. Player figures for the world’s most successful MMO have drifted downwards ever since Cataclysm, and now sit at 5.5 million.

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That’s actually only a tiny shift in the wrong direction since August, when Blizzard reported a total of 5.6 million to investors. The more profound slip happened after Warlords of Draenor’s spike six months earlier. Nearly half of the 10 million who visited the orcish homeland for the expansion didn’t stick around.

At its highest peak in 2010, WoW had 12 million residents. The numbers now match those of a decade ago, in late 2005. As our Phil pointed out in the summer, that means Blizzard’s flagship game still hosts a larger population than Norway, Singapore, or New Zealand.

If Blizzard are looking for other, more positive metrics to focus on, there are plenty. Hearthstone’s “engagement” has grown 77% in the past year and is making more money than ever. Diablo III has now sold more than two million units in China. And more than seven million FPS hopefuls have signed up to the Overwatch beta.

Viewed on a graph, the last few months of WoW numbers don’t look too doomy – they look like stabilisation. There’s traditionally a deep dip just before an expansion, however, and the upcoming World of Warcraft: Legion is set to dominate BlizzCon this weekend. What would it take to pull you back to Azeroth?