Blizzard's Final Report: World of Warcraft Active Subs in 2015 At 5.5 Million

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With the claimed success and increase in subscription numbers that came with the Legion expansion, Blizzard is still holding off on any official reported total on how many people are still actively playing WoW.

With Each New Expansion, Came Less Attention

When World of Warcraft: Legion was announced, I was hesitant to rinse and repeat what I had been doing since the days of Cataclysm. An on-again, off-again player since 2005, WoW is the game I have sunk the most hours and effort into compare to any other. A steady subscriber until the end of Wrath of the Lich King yet always returning for stints of time during every expansion after that, I’ve been a part of that active and often fluctuating player base. Knowing that WoW had so effectively drawn me in, yet failed to keep my attention and my $15 a month without waiver, I wondered if other players were feeling that same things I was that caused them to take a break or quit all together.

The Legion expansion saw the highest number of active subscribers in years. Reported by Blizzard at its launch that the number of players was back at the 10 million mark, it was also said to not be an accurate number. Nearly 3.3 million copies of the game however, were sold.

When You Rise to the Top, You Have Nowhere to Go but Down

Blizzard absolutely dominated the MMO market with the success that followed WoW’s launch in late 2004. At that time, not too many other games like it had been around and the genre was up for the taking. Whether the devs at Blizzard knew what they had truly created or they too were taking a shot in the dark like EverQuest and City of Heroes had, they would probably tell you otherwise today.

After 13 years and counting of being not only the most successful MMO of all time, but also one of the most popular video games of all time, World of Warcraft etched itself in the history books. When the game first launched, the threshold of active subscribers reached over 6 million. Over the next 4 years and just after the release of its third expansion pack, Cataclysm, the game reached its highest ever reported number of players at over 12 million.

Incidentally, that’s as high as Blizzard would ever report their active subscribers and 5 years later, they would stop doing so all together. Following Cataclysm were the Mists of Pandaria, Warlords of Draenor and Legion expansion packs. With each new release of content, a spike in returning players would often take place, but soon level back out and return to the decreasing number we have continued to see since that peak.

A graph that shows the number of players in the millions verses each quarter of WoW’s existence since its launch in late 2004. A sharper climb with each expansion followed its steady decrease in total is common amongst its player base today.

Too Much Change is Never a Good Thing

While there is no exact reason as to why WoW has seen its number of active subscribers drop so much since its peak, being a player myself, I can only attribute it to how much the game has changed since its beginning. While new content is always fun and exciting, heavy pacing changes on top of an astounding amount of class ability pruning and the artifact weapon system is why I spent the least amount of time playing the game when Legion first launched. WoW did so many things right over the course of those first 5 years, it’s a shame to see how far off it’s drifted since and it’s dwindling subscription numbers are a testament to how other gamers share the same view. Thankfully, private servers have made their appearance and don’t appear to be going anywhere anytime soon.

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Beard-clad, pirate-at-heart storyteller from the Pacific Northwest.
Currently Playing: Overwatch, Zelda: Breath of the Wind, Planet Coaster, Astroneer, SMITE, World of Warcraft (Private Server)
Top 3 Favorite Games:Dragon Age: Inquisition, Fable: The Lost Chapters, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic
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