While the Warcraft movie is about to drop we’re slowly creeping into a level of Warcraft hype we haven’t seen since Burning Crusade. That being said there still is the problem of dropping subscriber numbers for World of Warcraft and what that exactly means for the community as a whole. A few days before BlizzCon it was announced subscriber numbers were down to 5.5 million, its lowest since 2005, and Blizzard will no long be sharing subscriber numbers going forward.
Executive producer J Allen Brack spoke at BlizzCon about what he calls “a difficult problem.”
“One of the problems that we have as a team and that I think the community has as well is this perception that there’s a direct relationship between the number that we announce and the health of that community, and the health of that business,” Brack said. “That’s not really true. I wouldn’t say that World of Warcraft is necessarily half as successful now as in previous times.”
Brack goes on to explain the development team can’t worry about subscriber numbers too much. Staying focused on the games quality is the number one goal. “For us, the team can’t focus on how to make a quest that adds 100,000 more subscribers,” Brack said. “How does this raid boss retain people for five months longer? You’re going to drive yourself crazy as a developer doing that. The only thing we can do is focus on good experiences, focus on learning everything that we can and trying to put it into what we’re working on and make World of Warcraft the best thing that it can be.”
Steps have been made to make WoW more accessible to those that may not have played the game before or are coming off a long break. In the latest expansion, Warlords of Draenor, there was an option to take a level boost to 90 so you could jump in with friends that have already been playing for a while. The next expansion, Legion, will continue this trend and provide a level 100 boost as well.
“Level boosts have worked out really well,” Brack said. “We want to make it easier to play with your friends. We have a huge component of people who have been playing World of Warcraft for 10 years or some obscene number, and they have friends that either played a long time ago or maybe they’ve never played. It’s easy now to just buy the box, and you’re all caught up.”
One detail Brack let out was the fact that the level boost with Legion can be cancelled and used again. If you are playing a toon and haven’t finished the tutorial section, you can delete that character to start a new one with the level boost. Basically if you weren’t liking the class you chose you could try again with a different one.
“If you’ve always wanted to try a rogue, you can try that, and if you decide it’s not for you before you finish, it won’t consume the token,” he said. “It gives the option for people to try all the different classes.”
Not every expansion pleases everyone. There really is no way to combat this fact. Brack address this as well and explains how they are looking at new ways of doing expansions in the future.
“One of the things we started talking about internally with the release of Warlords of Draenor, and one of the reasons we did level boosts then as well, was the idea of an expansion as like a Dungeons & Dragons module. We have so many people who play World of Warcraft, who come in and out on a regular basis, and we think that’s awesome. We’ve had expansions that didn’t speak to certain types of people, and we’ve had expansions that really spoke to them. We think that’s okay. Making it easier to come back and play with your friends or bring your friends along, that’s how we’re looking at it.”
There is a lot to be said about the success of World of Warcraft and while the numbers have dropped a bit it’s still an extremely successful game. It’s nice to hear Blizzard hasn’t lost focus on the game and will continue to push out content in different ways.