Online adventure game World of Warcraft has seen a 14% drop in subscribers in the first three months of the year, according to a report by publisher Activision Blizzard. The trend is likely to continue, although World of Warcraft remains the most popular subscriber-based massively multiplayer online game.
The 14% dip amounts to 1.3 million subscribers lost, most of them in the Asian market, in spite of efforts to appeal to that particular gaming sector. An upgrade launched in September last year gave a significant boost to subscriber numbers, bringing them to 10 million in October.
The upgrade, Mists of Pandaria, contained a large amount of Asian themed content while still staying true to the game’s lore. The title was initially a great success, selling 2.7 million copies in the first week and swelling subscriber number by over one million in China. The latest figures however indicate that even a new continent inhabited by pandas skilled in martial arts was not able to convince many subscribers to stay.
Developers blame the drop on increased competition on the MMO market and especially on the rise of free-to-play games. The California-based company is not willing to give up without a fight though. They are planning to release new content more frequently in order to keep players engaged longer and make the return easier for those who are absent from the game for a long time.
Even so, we don’t expect things to get any easier for WoW. The MMO is expected to lose some more subscribers to other titles, including WildStar, developed by a game studio that includes many ex Blizzard employees.
Activision is likely to face stern competition from Disney as well. The company’s new game Skylanders, which allows gamers to use real-life toy figures in the game through near field communications technology, got critics and gamers excited. But Disney is developing a similar title, which it plans to release this summer.
If the drop in subscribers continues, the developers will have no other choice but to make their title free-to-play. Almost ten years after it launch, WoW remains the most popular subscriber-based game online, with 8.3 million players. At its peak, in 2010, it had up to 12 million players.
[Image via WoW]