An observation I made on Twitter was that the new subscriber number puts World of Warcraft right back on the downward slope that one would expect from most MMO's. Back when Blizzard announced that WoW had jumped up to 10 million after WoD's release people began to use the term "cyclical" and speculate that perhaps WoW would break the traditional trend of MMO's to slowly taper off into
|Curve should actually be slightly lower on the right side|
After I suppressed my juvenile giggling over the idea of WoW being "longer" than other MMOs, I voiced my agreement. What the data tells me is that WoW, as with many MMOs has both "diehards," fans that are there to stay, and "tourists," players that come for brief spurts of content then disappear. The tourists bump the subscriber count up when an expansion is released, then disappear shortly afterwards. However in this case, though WoD attracted a large number of tourists, it also lost them fast.@0utofBeta @lifetotem WoW's curve isn't much different from other long-lived MMOs best I can tell, just a lot higher/longer.— Talarian (@Talarianjs) August 4, 2015
That isn't great news for Blizzard, because as you can see above, we're only about halfway through the typical life of an expansion, with no new content for this one on the way (that we know of), and already we're starting the downhill where diehards move on too. At this rate, WoW will hit 2005 levels within the next four years. Drawing back the tourists and keeping the diehards happy is going to be a challenge, especially as WoW hits the point where it's starting to really show its age. Pretty as it can be, it is a ten year old game. EVE for example, one of the few MMOs to have a similar lifetime and popularity, has had to update it's engine numerous times. Perhaps the developers need to re-examine how content is supplied, or even how the game is played.
On another note, I do wonder how much of this decline is due to Heavensward, as Final Fantasy XIV seems to be chugging right along at around 4 million subscribers (depending on whether you believe the press). WoW has had plenty of competitors stall out of their starting gates or experience an initial surge then rapidly descend into F2P, but never has it had a competitor do well, but grow. FFXIV might be the first "real" competitor WoW has ever had.