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[Column] General: WoW's Subscribers Are Up... Maybe?

SBFordSBFord Associate Editor - News ManagerThe Land of AZPosts: 16,659MMORPG.COM Staff Uncommon

'Tis the season for 2013 fourth quarter and full year financial reporting, which means we can update ourselves as to how various publishers and their key titles fared during these periods. It's an unfortunate fact of life that game companies dislike making their numbers more transparent than necessary. That said, a little data mining can often be edifying and interesting. Last week learned about World of Warcraft, and from elsewhere, about the Russian market. 

Read more of Richard Aihoshi's The Free Zone: WoW's Subscribers Are Up... Maybe?.

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Associate Editor: MMORPG.com
Follow me on Twitter: @MMORPGMom

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Comments

  • drowelfdrowelf phenix city, ALPosts: 104Member
    Mature market vs  a growing new market. Whats new with that?
  • Po_ggPo_gg Twigwarren, WestfarthingPosts: 2,729Member Uncommon

    Nice summary, Richard, much more objective and in-place than Neilie's was :)

    It's just a 0.2mill increase, with Draenor and the insta lvl90 option, a MoP sale, and by using a unique-ly unusual term of "subscriber"... so I pretty much agree with your title, it's up...maybe?

    On the other hand Neilie wrote right away about the f2p fatigue and the diminishing of microtransactions :D

  • Dreamo84Dreamo84 Niagara Falls, NYPosts: 3,437Member Uncommon
    Free 90s aren't out yet though...

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  • Po_ggPo_gg Twigwarren, WestfarthingPosts: 2,729Member Uncommon
    Originally posted by Fendel84M
    Free 90s aren't out yet though...

    Nor Draenor ;)

    As I wrote under Neilie's editorial too, I don't wow, just have a few buddies who do (unfortunately :) instead of LotRO or TSW, the noobs), and when asked, they've tried to somewhat justify their resub with that. More precisely, "to make some preparations for Draenor, arranging things, etc.".

    I have no idea what does that mean, since I don't play... usually preparations for a new expansion to me (for example in LotRO) only means to manage some free time for that week. Or maybe cleaning up the inventory a bit. But that's just me.

  • CrazKanukCrazKanuk Elmira, ONPosts: 2,499Member Uncommon

    I think that, historically, subscriptions have gone up following an expansion announcement. I usually play through the content of a new expansion, leave for a bit to play something else, resub and come back for an expansion, leave again. I'm pretty hardcore /end sarcasm

     

    Crazkanuk

    ----------------
    Azarelos - 90 Hunter - Emerald
    Durnzig - 90 Paladin - Emerald
    Demonicron - 90 Death Knight - Emerald Dream - US
    Tankinpain - 90 Monk - Azjol-Nerub - US
    Brindell - 90 Warrior - Emerald Dream - US
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  • RazeeksterRazeekster Solon, MEPosts: 2,201Member Uncommon

    I think this is because a lot of people are honestly just getting sick of cash shops in F2P MMOs at this point. Even games with a great F2P set-up like Rift, use things like lock-boxes in their cash shops to make a quick buck.

     

    And look at the options for subscription games... WoW and FFXIV are the only ones right now (well there are other smaller ones, like Dark Ages and Istaria, but those don't have as large of player-bases due to their small popularity and inability to advertise as much).

     

    The choices for subscription games are small so they will most likely do well with the crowd of people that want nothing to do with F2P (and that crowd is most likely growing).

    Smile

  • TorvalTorval Oregon CountryPosts: 7,223Member Uncommon

    Great article. I appreciate you breaking down the numbers juggle ActiBlizz put out.

    I think the reason why they don't break down sales can easily be explained by marketing. I think being able to market the game as the clear king of subscriptions by such a wide margin gives affords them a "king of the hill" win that no one else can touch. It sounds impressive, as I said no one can touch it, and it puts them in a unique position with their game. How much less impressive would it sound to say, "Globally we have 3M subscribers, .75M time card users, and another 4M cafe users". Suddenly they would be within the realm of reach from other game companies. Dev studios and publishers might know this already, but the "average gamer" doesn't seem to have the ability to reason through what "F2P" actually means, let alone something like this. It would be a horrendous blow to their perception and popular inertia.

    Do Russia and the rest of the EU have a similar demographic cross section to their gaming? If so then your comparison and conclusion seem acceptable, but if not then I think that's too much of a stretch to assume and then draw a conclusion.

    I do agree that the NA market is waning in influence. This is something some people here would probably laud as a boon, but I think it is bad for us. On one hand, maybe this will promote more niche titles and smaller more dedicated focused communities. That's the potential positive. On the other hand, it could mean that triple A development and larger titles are made for other demographics, leaving us out. It could also mean that more interesting foreign titles won't even make it here. We're already seeing Russia and the EU get localization first. ArcheAge launced in Russia first and Tera has had a new patch over a month before NA. I really feel we'll be left with whatever is left over.

  • GrakulenGrakulen Staff Writer St. Charles, MOPosts: 463MMORPG.COM Staff Uncommon
    Blame GAAP for the fuzzy numbers.
  • SwampDragonsSwampDragons KavlingePosts: 324Member Uncommon
    zzZZzz Blizzard claim that they had more people now then before and people go all nuts and have to break down all the numbers so it fit them.
  • expressoexpresso mePosts: 2,183Member Uncommon
    At least blizzard give us numbers and a clear definition.....  damned if you do damned if don't.
  • XiaokiXiaoki White Pigeon, MIPosts: 2,609Member Uncommon


    Originally posted by SwampDragons
    zzZZzz Blizzard claim that they had more people now then before and people go all nuts and have to break down all the numbers so it fit them.
    If WoW numbers are down then its "WoW IS DYING!!!"

    If WoW numbers are up then its "they are lying."

    MMORPG.com even has editorials about how Blizzard is lying about the subscription numbers.


    Why is it that none of these people ever question Blizzard as to the accuracy of their subscription accounting when the numbers are down?

  • discord235discord235 Woodland, CAPosts: 143Member Uncommon
    Seems like Blizz is saying, "See! We're still relevant!" in a game that is clearly on the decline...the truth is, there are several MMOs out now that are better than WoW. 

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  • KonfessKonfess Dallas, TXPosts: 956Member Uncommon

    This is not an unusual way to describe subscribers.  It is difficult for you to comprehend, but I assume so are all instruction manuals, drivers handbooks, contracts, and warning labels (ie. don’t drink out of toilet)  

    1. Credit card subscriber
    2. Cash prepaid card subscriber
    3. Buy to play first month free subscriber

    Here is where you get confused, the Internet Game Room must install a bought and paid for and monthly subscribed to copy on each and every computer it makes available to the public.  The Internet Game Room is the subscriber, not you playing your good for nothing free game and not spending a cent in the cash shop.  

    The you in this post does not refer to the OP of the referenced article, it refers to the general free gamer who doesn’t pay for their game play in the cash shops.  I’m sure Mr. Aihoshi does pay for his gaming and does indorse Free To Play as a Theft of Service, by encouraging players to play without paying a dime.

    Pardon any spelling errors
    Konfess your cyns and some maybe forgiven
    Boy: Why can't I talk to Him?
    Mom: We don't talk to Priests.
    As if it could exist, without being payed for.
    F2P means you get what you paid for. Pay nothing, get nothing.

  • syriinxsyriinx New York, NYPosts: 1,063Member Uncommon

    This article is embarrassing to MMORPG.com.  WoW has been consistent for years with how it reports subs and the definition of a sub.  they have always done quartly reports and are never shy to report losses.  The "?" in the title is a joke, the subs are definitely up since last quarter.

    They aren't up by a significant amount % wise, but Blizzard never claimed to be.  Of course on the flip side, no one mentions how being down 33% over the last 3.5 years is still better than 95% of the other games out there.

  • JeleenaJeleena Posts: 120Member Uncommon
    Originally posted by syriinx

    This article is embarrassing to MMORPG.com.  WoW has been consistent for years with how it reports subs and the definition of a sub.  they have always done quartly reports and are never shy to report losses.  The "?" in the title is a joke, the subs are definitely up since last quarter.

    They aren't up by a significant amount % wise, but Blizzard never claimed to be.  Of course on the flip side, no one mentions how being down 33% over the last 3.5 years is still better than 95% of the other games out there.

    ^^This, wel said. 

  • daltaniousdaltanious waPosts: 2,145Member Uncommon

    I'm for sure one of re-subbed players. And for sure will play wow as long as there will be at least one working server. But it is IMPOSSIBLE to expect any1 will be subbed 365 days per year and for years. We all need breaks. In media I guess I play wow and swtor when i have leveled my main alts to max about 4/5 months per year and 6/7 months when new expansion is out. For me is ok if they include me in their stats for entire year. Because I'm playing wow and will continue as it looks for now as long as there will be wow.

     

  • DrawocDrawoc LincolnPosts: 37Member
    I hope the sub model dies out...LONG LIVE GW2
  • WizardryWizardry Ontario, CanadaPosts: 8,467Member Uncommon

    I don't want to write a huge essay on the Russian market but the author obviously is NEW to the scope of the whole ordeal and RMT use.

    Basically numbers can lie unless you fully understand HOW and why.

    First of all WHY post numbers,unless your saying that numbers intrigues others to the point they will play that game based on numbers an noting of common sense?Well Blizzard has been using the tactic of posting numbers ALL the time,actually EVERY time,they never use anything of common sense to drive their marketing ONLY posting of numbers.

    As to the Russian market,well there was a Russian game back just before Wow was released and was putting up bigger numbers than Wow in the same time period.This game was a total joke ,it was based on spending real money and LOTS of it to be able to fight other leaders or i think were called KIngs.The problem was you had to BID to get the right to fight,so  there would be a bidding war.Well so happens the CEO's wife played and she was driving those numbers up into ridiculous heights,multi thousands and the only way to advance would be to TRY and out bid her.

    That kind of nonsense drives numbers way out of proportion,hence why numbers can lie.Then someone comes along and starts posting numbers about how great the Russia market is for rmt use,when it is the few VERY rich driving those numbers up.Point is that to the AVERAGE gamer,they have no interest in that kind of stupid spending in a game.So again you get someone posting how great the F2P market  when in fact it is the MINORITY of foolish spenders driving those numbers way up.


    Samoan Diamond

  • Kel_ScepticKel_Sceptic SmenariaPosts: 1Member

    I played wow 5 years from vanilla until WoTLK, after that I've just done Loremaster at every expansion (that means 1month subscription).

     I hated WoW, and tought it was dying, It is easy NOW, it is not what it used to be. I felt like that for like 3 years, untill i've started doing LOREMASTER FROM SCRATCH and I must admit the game seems more complete now then it ever was. And about being easy, try thinking that a new expansion is almost out and the majority of guilds havent FULL CLeared SoO.

    And with WoD expansion coming out, it will explain how was the horde made, how was the earth build whos and whats. Now I've started to play reguraly and I really enjoy it.

    Geting to the point:

    1. lets start discussion about the numbers of subscribers when we will have at least another game with the same ammount of players.

    2. lets just admit that WoW its still owning the mmorpg market, and just consider it is 10 YEARS OLD!

    3. SWTOR has 1mil subs, and GW2 active players ~400k, lets say 1mil.

    4. ESO beta was a complete failure and the gameplay and the way the char moves doesnt feel like you could do ARENA like pvp or quality pvp in that game.

    5. You get what you pay for. F2P will never have not even half the quality and quantity of content that a good SUB game has.

    The fact that alot of games tried to compete with WoW  (Aion, SWTOR, AoC, Rift, etc) and switched from sub based to F2P is reflected by the fact that all those games together dont equal WoW's player base. And yeah, I bought AoC on day one, I've played SWTOR and Rift on betas, a rl friend played Aion 1 month and left it to get back to WoW.

     

    LATER EDIT: Think of it like this: if blizzard is lying about wow subscribers, then all the developers are lying. And if WoW has in fact 3,5milions of players, then SWTOR has 500k, GW2 500K and so on, you got the point ;)

     

    Those are  my opinions and my arguments. Thanks for reading them.

     
     
  • MyriaMyria Lowell, MAPosts: 570Member Uncommon
    Originally posted by Xiaok

    If WoW numbers are down then its "WoW IS DYING!!!"

     

    If WoW numbers are up then its "they are lying."

    MMORPG.com even has editorials about how Blizzard is lying about the subscription numbers.


    Why is it that none of these people ever question Blizzard as to the accuracy of their subscription accounting when the numbers are down?

    Pretty much this. 

  • jbombardjbombard SapporoPosts: 531Member Uncommon
    I'm sure the subs are up as it that is normal for the last raid boss of an expansion.  Usually that will be followed by a slight decline as the final patch stretches on without new content and finally followed by a surge with the release of an expack.  If it follows the last 2 expacks shortly after the release it will continue to lose subs at the rate of roughly 2 million per year.
  • MurlockDanceMurlockDance ParisPosts: 1,223Member
    "WoW gains subscribers in Q4... maybe

    On Thursday, Activision Blizzard announced its latest results. As reported by this site and sundry other publications, it was revealed that as of December 31, WoW “remains the #1 subscription-based MMORPG, with approximately 7.8 million subscribers.” While this figure was up about 0.2 million compared to three months earlier, the company didn't try to spin this small gain into a notable positive."

     

    What?! I usually like to give the benefit of the doubt to the official mmorpg.com article writers on here, but this article is just junk! The title, plus this passage is trying to throw Blizzard into disparaging light, as if they are trying to deliberately mislead the public (and incidently shareholders and potential future investors). The wording of the latest results is very clear. Activision Blizzard's revenue in the last quarter of 2013  is up with respect to the third quarter of 2013. That is taking every single game into account.

    In fact, if you read the report carefully, Blizzard makes no bones about saying that they are *down* overall in 2013 with respect to 2012. Taken from the linked article:

    "For calendar year 2013, Activision Blizzard delivered GAAP net revenues of $4.58 billion, as compared with $4.86 billion for 2012. On a non-GAAP basis, the company’s net revenues were $4.34 billion, as compared with $4.99 billion for 2012"

    I find it is startingly clear what that means and Blizzard is NOT trying to pull wool over anyone's eyes.

    No, they do not say "WoW is doing great, we are up 200k subs!". What they are stressing is that they have a great portfolio of profitable games in general, that they are now independant of Vivendi and how they have gone about calculating their profit of last year. Again, this article is about the portfolio of games, not just WoW. If they did not make a big stink about having 200k more subs in the last quarter of 2013 it is probably because they are more concerned about discussing the overall viability of the company. After all, WoW is not their only game making money for them.

    What is even more important is whether those subscribers stay and get counted in the first quarter of 2014. If they do stay or if there is yet again evidence of an upward trend, then that is pretty amazing that such an old game can attract players again even if they have not released a new expac. I honestly am surprised that there was any gain since we are not yet in a new expac cycle.

    Playing MUDs and MMOs since 1994.

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  • MurlockDanceMurlockDance ParisPosts: 1,223Member
    Also the definition of what Blizzard considers a subscriber is very clear. It is basically anyone who is not cancelled in some way or another, has no valid current payment method, or is on a free trial. Someone logging in from an internet café is technically a "sub" because they are still paying something to Blizzard. What matters most to Blizzard are the revenues from the online subscription games, not the number of subscribers. The subscription revenues + digital sales are most of what the company earns in a year.

    Playing MUDs and MMOs since 1994.

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  • evilastroevilastro EdinburghPosts: 4,270Member
    Game room players would have no need to access the free trial. They pay the room and play whatever games they want. If they are logged playing WoW then Blizz gets a cut of the rental. Essentially Blizzards numbers are 'total paying customers', but it does not elaborate on how much is paid in other regions. Most games don't differentiate between regions and amount paid when counting total subs. You can see what this amounts to in the reported profit however, and WoW is still Blizzards cash cow.
  • Kevyne-ShandrisKevyne-Shandris Hephzibah, GAPosts: 1,946Member
    Originally posted by evilastro
    Game room players would have no need to access the free trial. They pay the room and play whatever games they want. If they are logged playing WoW then Blizz gets a cut of the rental. Essentially Blizzards numbers are 'total paying customers', but it does not elaborate on how much is paid in other regions. Most games don't differentiate between regions and amount paid when counting total subs. You can see what this amounts to in the reported profit however, and WoW is still Blizzards cash cow.

    WoW differentiates between regions as players play in different regions.

     

    As for Richard's analysis: the down numbers overall isn't so much about F2P rising in it's market, as much as content was off the mark (e.g., MoP didn't hit the right points with the player base, coming on the heals of Cata). It's something Blizzard has been suffering from since January, 2011 after that infamous "l2p" remark from Ghostcrawler to the disaster called Dragon Soul from the Cata expansion. Cata signaled the end of the WC story arc, and Blizzard hasn't since found the winning formula and basically lost in the desert trying regain that "magic" again. Can't see them recovering until they graphically update Northrend, as that story arc is when the franchise peaked and players miss the non-raid lock days (which made WotLK popular) and an epic villain to fight. Furthermore, rise in population at the moment is more likely to do with it's the time to level alts and finish achieves (as evident the other week with Time-Lost Protodrake achieve hunters were out at 12am trying to camp it) before the lead up to the WoD expansion. There's also talk of Season 15 PvP gear coming in the next patch, which means the PvPers will return for farming gear/achieves, too.

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