Activision Stops Reporting WoW Subscriber Numbers at 5.5 Million

World of Warcraft stabilizes at 5.5 million subs, but Activision Blizzard is done releasing those numbers.

Analysis by Mike Williams, .

Yesterday, with the release of its financial earnings report for the third quarter of 2015, Activision Blizzard revealed that World of Warcraft is currently sitting at 5.5 million subscribers. That's down 100,000 subscribers from the company's second quarter, meaning World of Warcraft has seemingly simmered down to its hardcore playerbase. Around 5 million looks to be WoW's new home for the foreseeable future, not counting spikes from expansion releases.

"You'll never hear our subscriber counts again!"

With these numbers, Activision Blizzard also said that it won't be reporting subscriber numbers in future earnings releases.

"Note that this is the last quarter that we plan to provide subscriber numbers," the company said during this morning's investor Q&A, according to GameSpot. "There are other metrics that are better indicators of the overall Blizzard business performance."

Those metrics will be based on "engagement", meaning Blizzard will be able to potentially spin the numbers in a positive direction. Big business and shareholders require that numbers always go up, not down, so Activision is looking obfuscate WoW's performance by switching its metrics up. That's why no other MMO directly reports their subscriber counts either.

The company is shifting the development of World of Warcraft towards more frequent expansions. The upcoming Legion expansion is definitely aimed at bringing lapsed players back into the fold, hammering on characters and concepts fans have been begging for. We can expect to hear more about Legion at the upcoming Blizzcon 2015 event.

Blizzard also acknowledged that most of its core players have aged out of consistent play, which is why you see the subscriber spikes around expansions. More frequent expansions keep those players in the fold.

Blizzard announced the Legion expansion at Gamescom, not Blizzcon.

"That's part of why our numbers are more volatile than they used to be," World of Warcraft lead designer Tom Chilton told GameSpot. "That's part of that changing demographic. And ultimately, what we want is to make sure that we never lose the faith of our players in Blizzard that we'll create great experiences that you'll feel like you've got your money's worth. We do have more expansion packs planned already."

"We recognize that we need to release [expansions] on a faster cadence than we have in the past. So we're investing in the team and our resources to enable us to do that," Blizzard president Mike Morhaime told Polygon.

It's worth noting that while 5.5 million is bad for World of Warcraft, it's great for nearly any other MMO out there. Most of WoW's current competitors - Final Fantasy XIV, Guild Wars 2, Star Wars: The Old Republic, Elder Scrolls Online - are nowhere near those numbers. It's a situation where the only thing Blizzard is really worried about is itself.

It's also telling that Blizzard seems to be done with the classic MMO genre as defined by WoW. They tried to build the next big thing with Project Titan, but it never quite came together and the company forged what was left into Overwatch. Hearthstone proved to be a pivot for the company, proving that smaller projects could be more lucrative than huge pits of money like Titan. That pivot has lead to the expansion of Hearthstone, Heroes of the Storm, and Overwatch. Hearthstone is doing gangbusters, Heroes of the Storm is making money, and 7 million players signed-up to beta test Overwatch. New Blizzard is in full swing.

For reference, here's the official World of Warcraft subscriber numbers from Activision Blizzard over the years:

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Comments 7

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  • Avatar for SuperShinobi #1 SuperShinobi 3 years ago
    It seems like the age of the MMO is over for now. WOW is on the wane with no replacement in sight, SWTOR and ESO never really caught on, FFXIV needed a full reboot to stay viable.

    It's almost surprising, as in the previous decade it seemed like MMOs were the future of gaming. Or not, for an old-school gamer like me who believes in the power of the single-player experience. I did dabble in some SWTOR though, but found the long login times and the simplistic gameplay off-putting.Edited November 2015 by SuperShinobi
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  • Avatar for Tetragrammaton #2 Tetragrammaton 3 years ago
    Raw spite for WoW solidifying the themeparkification of an entire genre dictates that I cheer the collapse of its subscription base, but good lord 5 million players when its biggest competitors have never seen that many players across their entire existence? Really hammers home how much of a phenomenon it is.
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  • Avatar for Manthing #3 Manthing 3 years ago
    @Tetragrammaton yes it does but I will point out that XIV has been the closest and is continuing to gain more ground. They broke 4 million not too long ago and they are paid sub as well. No other mmo out there has done that in recent times. Either way don't dis credit mmos. It's still a very large and I mean a very large
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  • Avatar for craighart70 #4 craighart70 3 years ago
    Bogus number this quarter, then refuse to show anymore subscription numbers. WOW is dead.
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  • Avatar for MHWilliams #5 MHWilliams 3 years ago
    @Manthing XIV has 5 million registered accounts, not active subscriptions. Working backwards from Square Enix revenue numbers puts them at just over 3 million users across every MMO they own, and that's if you ignore boxed sales. The last Lodestone survey had the active population around 730,000 users.

    Nothing else is close to WoW, even in its obvious decline.Edited 2 times. Last edited November 2015 by MHWilliams
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  • Avatar for SatelliteOfLove #6 SatelliteOfLove 3 years ago

    This is what they get by holding themselves to other genres' standards.

    EvE and FF XIV be trucking on though.
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  • Avatar for jordansmith9548553 #7 jordansmith9548553 2 months ago
    Seems like Blizzard is making history. Las Vegas dentures
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