For over a decade now, World of Warcraft has been the gold standard for subscription-based MMOs. At its peak it had over 11 million paid subscribers. Over the past couple of years it has experienced the long, slow crawl that we all face in life, but it’s still hanging in there with a new expansion called Warlords of Draenor scheduled to come out this year. One notable thing about its numbers is that WoW has now been overtaken by Dota 2. Valve’s runaway hit free-to-play MOBA now has 7.85 million unique players, which just edges out Blizzard’s MMO by about 50,000 people. This information was first noticed and posted by Reddit user dagla, and of course it has spawned all sorts of commentary.
So what does it all mean? Is it fair to even compare these games? Does this mark the beginning of the end of WoW? What does it mean for the MMO genre? While it’s clear that WoW is nowhere near as relevant as it was even a few years ago, it cannot be overstated just how phenomenal its success has been…and continues to be. I’m certainly no fan of this game, but I’ll give respect where it’s due; how many 11 year old games do you know of that still have almost 8 million people playing them?
On the other hand, it’s pretty hard to ignore the fact that MOBAs are the new hotness amongst online gamers. Hell, forget about Dota 2 overtaking WoW and consider that League of Legends has 27 million players daily. 27 MILLION. Oh sure, some people will say that the number is inflated because it’s a Free-to-Play game, but the sheer number of regular participants is staggering and even WoW at its peak never approached even half that number. Considering those numbers, plus the complete lack of interesting MMOs with significant numbers of users these days (yes, I’m looking at you The Old Republic. You too, Elder Scrolls Online), it’s not much of a limb to go out on to say that the future of the genre is not looking so bright.
But hey, Blizzard didn’t get to where they are by sitting back. Of course they’re hard at work carving out their piece of the pie. Between Hearthstone (which has triggered an addiction in our esteemed boss), and the upcoming MOBA Heroes of the Storm, it’s a pretty safe bet that however fast WoW‘s decline is over the next year or so, they’ll end up with a nice big pile of money in which to land safely.