Numbers in World of Warcraft are dropping. And while having subscribers drop is bad for Blizzard's bottom line, it's impressive that they've managed to keep more than 7 million players in the MMO nearly a decade after its launch. One of the reasons for WoW's ongoing success is its push towards more casual fans.
"We would have been in bad shape," lead designer Tom Chilton said of Mists of Pandaria, an add-on designed for more casual appeal by introducing "accessible raiding."
Still, with servers being merged to adjust to the game's dwindling population, it's clear that drastic changes need to happen. Namely, moving to free-to-play--like pretty much every other MMO on the market.
"For Blizzard it makes sense [to go free-to-play] at some point," Chilton told Polygon. "But a lot of the risk is in making that transition. You hear stories about developers going free-to-play and getting double the number of players, but you don't always know it works out that way and how long it stays that way."
The fear may be warranted, but the switch to free-to-play has benefited a number of games. Revenue in Star Wars: The Old Republic doubled after the F2P switch, while DC Universe Online went up sevenfold.