- End of Vanilla WoW in Q4 2006: 8 million subs
- End of TBC in Q2 2008: 10.9 million subs
- End of WotLK in Q4 2009: 11.5 million subs
- (WoW surpasses 12 million subs during Cata)
- End of Cataclysm in Q2 2012: 9.1 million subs
- Nearing the end of MoP in Q2 2014: 6.8 million subs (announced today)
I find it interesting that there is a positive correlation between the loss in subscribers and the complete democratization of content. At the end of The Burning Crusade, WoW was sitting at 11 million subscribers. There was no LFG, no LFR, and raids were strictly 25 man endeavors. The amount of subscribers stabilized around 11.5 million during WotLK, but started dropping significantly during Cata, and continued to plummet during Mists.
People can place blame on the loss in subscriptions due to the age of the game, but I firmly believe that Blizzard's inexorable campaign to dilute the complexity from this game and democratize the content are both big factors. They feel that everyone should be able to experience everything within the game, and that if something is too "difficult", then it requires an overhaul.
This design philosophy is in diametrical opposition to what Bungie is currently doing with Destiny, and I think it's why so many former MMORPG players are starting to gravitate towards the game. Destiny will feature end game raiding content, and Bungie recently announced that there would not be any matchmaking whatsoever for these raids. They've gone on record stating that you will have to take time to coordinate with other people, form your own groups, and make your way through the content. No hand holding, no democratization. The phrases Bungie throws around like "cooperation challenge" and "investment challenge" are completely foreign concepts to the guys at Blizzard.
They've stated that they don't care how many people get to experience this particular set of content, and that it is geared towards only the most dedicated players. Honestly, it's refreshing to hear a developer talk like this in the context of a MMO-esque game, and I can't help but think that WoW would have at least 9+ million subscribers at this point if Blizzard wasn't so insistent on equalizing access to nearly everything in the game.
This post was edited on 8/5 at 8:23 pm