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Ask Massively: Why WoW's 1.3% matters


Welcome back to Ask Massively! Let's play with numbers and WoW. I like numbers and WoW.

"I'm no WoW fan, but a change in population of 1.3% either way is nothing worth writing about," wrote a Massively commenter last week on the pre-BlizzCon news that World of Warcraft dropped another 100,000 subscribers over the last quarter.

Sure it's worth writing about! Ever hear the phrase "no news is good news"?

Well, that phrase doesn't apply here exactly. Out of context, dropping 100k subbers is a big deal. If any other MMO dropped 100k paying customers, we'd be whispering "F2P" or "fail" or more likely both. But of course, this is World of Warcraft, and in context, that makes the quarterly announcement almost as good as "good news."

Consider that over the two quarters prior to this one, Blizzard's flagship MMO lost a combined total of just about two million subscriptions. Two million. Very few MMOs ever see two million players, let alone paying subs, and to lose them was serious business. Even if the game isn't "dying" or in danger of a shutdown, it's still aging and still in decline, and those revenue losses weren't pretty.

That makes losing "just" 100k in the third quarter relatively good news for the game. The game had been bleeding customers; we can assume that either the game has found its new playerbase equilibrium or the 5.4 patch and BlizzCon teases kept enough stalwart fans playing and paying. Probably both.

So while our commenter was absolutely right that a 1.3% playerbase loss is relatively insignificant on its own as far as losses are concerned, in context, it appears to demonstrate a leveling-off of those losses. And that is worth reporting on.

As another commenter put it, "The time to worry about WoW is when these articles stop getting hundreds of comments on Massively." On that, I agree.

What should you play? Where is the MMO industry headed? How does Massively operate? Has Lord British lost his marbles? Why is the edit button on a timer? Should "monoclegate" be hyphenated? Editor-in-Chief Bree Royce submits to your interrogations right here in Ask Massively every other Thursday. Drop your questions in the comments below or ping us at Just ask!

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