In a recent interview with MCV, World of Warcraft lead designer Tom Chilton admitted that Blizzard isn't expecting to see the MMORPG grow like it did prior to the Cataclysm release. That's likely because the subscription numbers have been on a steady decline since 4Q 2010 save for one little jump when Mists of Pandera was released.
"We really don't know if it will grow again," said Chilton. "It is possible, but I wouldn't say it's something that we expect. Our goal is to make the most compelling content we can."
By the time The Burning Crusade hit store shelves in January 2007, the MMORPG had 8.5 million subscribers. The numbers continued to grow with the release of Wrath of the Lich King in November 2008 (11.5 million) and Cataclysm in December 2010 (12 million). Mists of Pandaria, launched in September 2012, saw the subscription rate rise from 9.1 million to 10 million.
"By building expansions, you are effectively building up barriers to people coming back," Chilton added. "But by including the level 90 character with this expansion, it gives people the opportunity to jump right into the new content."
As of Q2 2014, World of Warcraft had 6.8 million subscribers. The upcoming fifth expansion pack, Warlords of Draenor, is expected to bring some players back. Previously, Blizzard indicated that it's not unusual to see customers cancel their subscription until a new expansion arrives. Once that's consumed, they will cancel again and wait for new content. That's why Blizzard has pushed to move new content out to gamers between expansion pack releases.
Last week, Blizzard announced that the upcoming Warlords of Draenor will be released on November 13, 2014. The expansion will cost $49.99 for the regular digital copy and $69.99 for the Digital Deluxe Edition. The company also plans to offer an $89.99 Collector's Edition that will be sold in retail stores. This version includes everything in the Digital Deluxe Edition plus a number of goodies including a mouse pad and soundtrack.
Will Warlords of Draenor have what it takes to bring truckloads of subscribers back to the popular MMORPG? Will the expansion offer staying power given that it offers one free upgrade to Level 90? That remains to be seen. However, there will be some growth with the launch of the expansion pack as we've seen in years past.