Lots of people are speculating how Age of Conan and Warhammer Online are going to affect World of Warcraft subscriber numbers. I could link to quite a few posts, but I’ll cheat and link to Tobold’s post, because he already did the linking for me.
I’m a tiny data point in a sea of MMO subscribers, but I suspect I represent some small percentage of WoW players (or former WoW players). Personally, regardless of the presence of Age of Conan or Warhammer in the MMO market, I’m done with WoW. I unsubscribed a couple months ago, and I don’t suspect I’ll be returning for the Lich King expansion. I don’t have any desire to level a Death Knight. I don’t participate in WoW PvP, and I have no interest in end-game raiding or dungeon crawling, even in smaller groups.
I may end up in Warhammer. If I end up enjoying Warhammer, that will likely be my MMO of choice for the forseeable future. But, even if I end up not enjoying Warhammer, I don’t see any reason for me to return to WoW. I’d rather catch up on single player games that I missed, or return to Eve Online, or try Vanguard, or return to LoTRO. I feel like I’ve exhausted everything I want to do in Azeroth. There’s no point in returning to WoW. There’s no housing, no meaningful economy, no PvP that affects the world around me. All I can do is consume their new content like a tourist, and I’m tired of that. Once I see it, once I level up, what’s left to do for someone who doesn’t raid? Not much, and I’m pretty sure I’ll be skipping the Lich King expansion because of it.
If I do succumb to Lich King curiousity and re-subscribe, it won’t be a long term experience. It would be virtual tourism, not a virtual home.
However, I realize that there are millions of players who do continue to enjoy what WoW has to offer, and will happily raid and PvP in the new expansion. I’m in no way predicting the failure of this expansion. In fact, I expect Blizzard to stay at the top of the MMO heap for quite a long time. I don’t see any possible successors to the throne in the upcoming generation of MMO’s. I’m just saying that I don’t think the chances of Blizzard regaining my subscription money is very high. I’m guessing there are other gamers who feel the same way I do, but I don’t think we’re going to make a very big dent in their overall numbers.
Anyone who wants to talk about AoC or Warhammer eating some of Blizzard’s Subscriber Pie has to also consider this fact: A major factor in Blizzard’s huge subscriber base is their worldwide appeal. Almost half (if not more than half) of their subscribers are outside the US and Europe, I believe. Please correct me if you have more current data! Assuming that’s close to correct, what are the chances of Warhammer or AoC drawing significant subscribers from beyond the US and European market? Do Chinese or Korean gamers care about WAR or AoC at all? If any MMO is going to seriously affect Blizzard’s stranglehold on subscriber numbers, it’s going to have to have worldwide appeal. You can’t compete with WoW unless you win over the Chinese subscriber market. Even if Warhammer won over all the current US and European WoW subscribers, I think think that would only be about 50% of WoW’s overall subscriber base. And what are the chances of everyone in Europe and the US choosing Warhammer?
I think Mark Jacobs is well aware of this, which is why he has stated that he doesn’t expect Warhammer to compete with WoW subscriber totals. He does, however, expect WAR to be second to WoW. Given this chart, that means WAR will need over 1 million subscribers (surpassing Lineage and Lineage II, and not counting Runescape). If Warhammer hits those numbers, I think it’ll be a huge success. But it still won’t affect Blizzard all that much. Even if all 1 million eventual WAR subscribers cancelled a WoW account to play, Blizzard would just go from Really Incredibly Freaking Profitable to Incredibly Freaking Profitable. I suspect they’ll continue their market dominance for some time to come.