WoW Dev Responds to Declining Subscriber Numbers, Says Legion Is "Best Expansion Yet"

Looking ahead to Legion.


Activision Blizzard announced this week that PC MMO World of Warcraft lost another 100,000 subscribers in the past three months, falling to a nine-year low of 5.5 million. The game's subscriber figures have been on the decline for some time now, and now game designer Brian Holinka has responded. He talked about that and the game's upcoming Legion expansion in a new interview with GameSpot from BlizzCon 2015.

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"We don't spend a lot of time concerning ourselves with it," he said about World of Warcraft subscriber slides. "We focus mostly on just trying to make the game as good as it can be."

Holinka acknowledged that World of Wacraft, though it remains the top overall subscription-based game in the world, is "kind of a little different from what it was years ago" as it related to subscribers. Following the release of Wrath of the Lich King in 2010, subscribers stood at an all-time high of 12 million. They later fell, but surged back to 10 million after the latest expansion, Warlords of Draenor, was released in 2014.

5.5 million World of Warcraft subscribers may be the last subscriber number that Blizzard announces. This week, the company confirmed that it will not share new subscriber numbers going forward, but instead will share other, unspecified engagement metrics that are said to be "better indicators of the overall Blizzard business performance."

History has clearly shown that new expansions draw players back. But given Blizzard's previous comments about wanting to release new World of Warcraft content more frequently, some might wonder why Legion isn't coming until 2016.

Holinka said Blizzard didn't want to rush it with Legion, an expansion he said represents World of Warcraft's best offering to date.

"We want to take all the time we really need make something that is up to the standards that everybody expects" -- Holinka says about Legion

"It's just us re-evaluating how certain features are coming along and [asking ourselves], 'Are we happy with this?' Because ultimately, when we come out with an expansion, that's the time for everybody to come back to the game and get really excited," he said. "So we want to take all the time we really need make something that is up to the standards that everybody expects. We just felt like we needed this time to continue to make things better. And really, ultimately, Legion is shaping up to be I think probably the best expansion we've ever made."

Holinka also notes that World of Warcraft's regular series of free updates and things like weekend-only activities are just some of the efforts Blizzard is undertaking to keep people interested and engaged between paid expansions.

Some of Legion's most compelling features, Holinka said, include its new Order Halls and the Demon Hunter class. In other Legion news, Blizzard has released the game's opening cinematic, which also reveals the expansion's summer 2016 release window.

That's also when Duncan Jones' Warcraft movie comes to theaters. Holinka said it's possible that the film's release may draw players into World of Warcraft.

"It's more of a broadening of the exposure of the universe to everyone," he said about the movie. "For us, our focus is just the game. Whether the movie's there or not, the expansion--and the quality of the gameplay experience and content--is really what going to help people stick around and play the game. I think it will get a lot of people excited; it'll probably turn a lot of people to [Legion] and that'll be a good thing."

Legion is World of Warcraft's sixth expansion. It follows The Burning Crusade (2007), Wrath of the Lich King(2008), Cataclysm (2010), Mists of Pandaria (2012), and Warlords of Draenor (2014).

Keep checking back with GameSpot for more BlizzCon 2015 content all week long.

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