news\ Jan 21, 2014 at 2:28 pm

2013 MMO earnings show World of Warcraft needs to switch to free-to-play model


If 2013 is any indication, Blizzard must seriously consider adopting the free-to-play model for World of Warcraft. According to SuperData's U.S. digital games market update, revenue generated from free-to-play massive multiplayer online (MMO) games increased 45 percent in 2013. The free-to-play games category totaled $2.89 billion in sales in 2013, up from the 1.99 billion in 2012. 

Subscription-based, or pay-to-play, MMO games meanwhile saw their yearly totals drop 19 percent year-over-year. The pay-to-play category accounted for just $1.2 billion in sales in 2013.

The research site didn't break down which MMOs had the most success in 2013, but one game to keep an eye on this year is Blizzard's World of Warcraft. Once king of the MMO market, World of Warcraft has seen the number of subscribers slowly dwindle over the past year-and-a-half. The long-standing MMO still boasts a respectable 7.6 million subscribers, but it's far from the powerhouse it once was. At its peak in 2010, World of Warcraft had more than 12 million subscriptions. The slow drop has led many to speculate whether Blizzard should move to a free-to-play model.

Although Blizzard has yet to fully make the jump, they have slowly started to introduce more and more in-game microtransactions. In fact, according to the same report, World of Warcraft generated $213 million in microtransactions in 2013 worldwide. Not bad for a game that turns 10 this year. Will 2013 be the end of the subscription-based World of Warcraft as we know it?

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