As of November 2011, there were about 10.3 million subscribers to World of Warcraft. That number is nothing to scoff at (most games would kill for those kinds of numbers), but when that number was at 12 million just a year earlier, there’s cause for concern.
Last week, Blizzard acknowledged the drop in numbers and attributed it to the release and growth of BioWare’s MMO Star Wars: The Old Republic, at least in part. Blizzard has not released any subscriber numbers or trends since The Old Republic was released. However, in that time, Blizzard released 600 employees and attempted to bring back former subscribers with their “Scroll of Resurrection” campaign.
World of Warcraft producer John Lagrave is not afraid to admit that even some of Blizzard has been playing The Old Republic, “Of course people are trying Star Wars – our development team are trying Star Wars! I’m one of the few people who’s still playing it actually, but yeah we’ve seen a dip in subs. It certainly has to at least be attributable to The Old Republic, but it’s also attributable to people who want to wait and get Mists of Pandaria, so it’s not surprising.”
Right now, World of Warcraft attempts to bring in new subscribers by letting people play free up to level 20. Blizzard has mentioned the idea of moving that limit to something higher, but for the foreseeable future, that doesn’t seem likely to happen. Even less likely is World of Warcraft going to a full free-to-play model, like many other MMORPGs.