Yesterday, in the wake of the launch of the Warlords of Draenor expansion, Blizzard announced that World of Warcraft had once again surpassed the 10 million subscription mark. Last month, Blizzard announced that WoW "only" had 7.4 million subscriptions on 30 September, an increase of 800 thousand from the end of the second quarter. Basically, in six weeks, WoW increased its subscription numbers by at least 35%, or 2.6 million. Wow!
That many gamers heading back to Azeroth has to have an effect on other games. According to the Xfire numbers gathered on Sunday, free-to-play games were hit much harder than subscription games. The only exception was Final Fantasy XIV, but that game is experiencing DDoS attacks, so the Square Enix product isn't as affected by the new expansion as a quick glance at the raw numbers may suggest.
Of course, due to the decline in the Xfire community over the past two years, the Xfire numbers may not necessarily reflect reality. The only one of the top games that I know of that provides hard numbers is EVE Online. CCP launched its Phoebe patch for EVE on 4 November to glowing reviews. Yet, despite reports of increased combat, especially that involving capital-class ships by the smaller player organizations, the weekly average concurrent user number dropped 3.5%, from 26,513 down to 25,579.
Still, that low of a drop was possibly caused by other factors like expiring offers, so I looked for some other data. The price of PLEX was very interesting. On 12 November, the day before the launch of Warlords of Draenor, the average price of a PLEX sold in EVE Online's main trade hub of Jita was 876,150,000 ISK. Yesterday, the price had risen 11.5% to 977,219.999.99 ISK. As a basis of comparison, from 30 September to 31 October, the price of PLEX only rose 7.4%. Interestingly enough, the volume traded Wednesday over Wednesday increased from 2,028 to 2,823, which usually indicates players coming back into EVE looking to subscribe using PLEX. But yet, the ACU fell.
Another theory for the increase in the volume of PLEX traded is speculation. Due to the rapid increase in price, I expect the EVE Central Bank to conduct a market intervention soon. Yet, would the price have increased so quickly if players were spending their money on WoW instead of buying PLEX to convert to ISK? I'm not so sure.
Of course, the numbers in EVE could just reinforce the fact that subscription games that have a solid IP and strong player groups like guilds, corporations, or free companies will stand up to the challenges provides by new games or expansion from the giant in the industry. I also think that explains why game studios still want to try to produce subscription and not free-to-play games. The stability of the games is more dependent on the decisions made by the studios and less on outside forces. I think everyone wants to determine their own future.