Blizzard Reveals World of Warcraft Subscriber Curve at GDC

john hight franchise general manager warcraft blizzard gdc 2024

The 2024 Game Developers Conference in San Francisco happened this week, and one of the sessions was a talk by John Hight, Franchise General Manager for Warcraft at Blizzard Entertainment. His presentation was titled The First 30 Years of ‘Warcraft’: The Making of a Game Universe, and it included among other things some insight into the game’s subscription trends over the last several years. Blizzard has closely guarded their actual subscriber numbers through recent releases, but now we at least have some idea of how those numbers have waxed and waned over the last several years.

We’ve put together a modified version of the charts with big releases and the COVID 19 lockdown marked. The original images are also included below as reported by Korean webzine Inven.

warcraft subscription curve 2024

Here are the original graph images, from left to right:

  • Subscriber expectations following the release of Shadowlands
  • Actual subscription dip during Shadowlands
  • Rise in subscriptions with Dragonflight and new versions of WoW Classic

As you can see, the developers were taken by surprise by the dip in subscriptions during Shadowlands. It’s worth noting that Burning Crusade Classic also released during Shadowlands’ tenture, but it barely made a blip in the graph. This may indicate that Shadowlands numbers tanked even harder than is visible in the charts, with WoW Classic softening the blow.

The recovery began with Wrath of the Lich King Classic and carried through Dragonflight, with the new versions of WoW Classic – Hardcore and Season of Discovery – carrying the numbers even higher at a point where the game would normally see a mid-expansion lull. Providing more options has paid off for Blizzard, but of course the enduring question is whether supporting so many versions of the game is sustainable in the long term.

Either way, the developers seem to have learned a few lessons from Shadowlands, and their experiments with Season of Discovery and Plunderstorm have so far proved fruitful. We’ll see where that takes World of Warcraft next, with a trio of new expansions on the horizon as well as another expansion for WoW Classic.

About the Author


I've been playing World of Warcraft on and off since vanilla, usually as a healer or caster and often as a guild leader. I play both retail and classic. I also love RPGs, sandboxes, and sims.

Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Scroll to Top