Been thinking a little about the declining WoW subscriber base. I’ve seen a few reports down in the 2 million range, the last official count I recall seeing was around 4 million. Which is still huge for a pay MMO, but it hasn’t been that low since a few months after launch. I started in classic, Ahn Qiraj wasn’t even a thing yet(the war effort started like a week after I started playing), and I don’t think the numbers were as low as they are now.
One thing that has always boosted subs is a new expansion. Last time it went over 10 million was shortly after Warlords of Draenor released. But those boosts don’t last. If they could maintain them longer, things might be better.
Blizzard has said many times that they want more frequent expansions. Back around BC IIRC, they said they wanted 1/year, and that… hasn’t happened. They are unwilling to compromise quality enough to meet that timeline. What they could do, I think, is design expansions with a smaller scope.
Exactly how they’d achieve this, I’m not sure. Basic systems updates are always part of a free patch, because otherwise the game wouldn’t work at all for people. They can’t really cut any of that out. Cutting the amount of content could be dicey but perhaps achievable?
Maybe they can split off new races/classes into their own expansion, with the content as a separate one? For instance, have a Demon Hunter expansion that lets you play Demon Hunters, but you don’t get any of the quests, dungeons or raids from Legion? And then a Legion War expansion, where you get the quests, raids, dungeons and so on but no Demon Hunter? This would allow them to release these two expansions on their own schedule. Demon Hunters wouldn’t be held up because some raid boss in Legion is a problem and vice versa. This should help with a faster turnaround cycle. Or structure the technical architecture so that a dungeon that is being a PITA to debug can be more easily put in later as a content patch or a Legion 2.0 expansion?
Obviously they’d have to reduce the expansion pricing to account for each expansion having less content than they have in the past. But this really could help. The hardcore players will buy it all, regardless, assuming the cost isn’t much larger. More casual or cash strapped players might just buy the content patches if they are happy with existing races and classes, making it more likely they’ll maintain their subscriptions if they don’t have to pay for new classes they’d never play. And the more frequent expansions might do better at maintaining the post expansion excitement and subscriber boost.