With the fourth quarter earnings call being released on February 6th, Blizzard has announced an increase in "World of Warcraft" subscribers from 7.6 million released in their third quarter earnings to 7.8 million. Although this increase seems marginally small, it has beaten many predictions from the fan base. The large drop in subscribers in early 2013 made many wonder whether or not "World of Warcraft" was still the top dog of the MMORPG genre.
There are a few possibilities that could explain the fourth quarter rise in subscribers. The anticipation for "World of Warcraft: Warlords of Draenor" is certainly a favored explanation. Blizzard has offered new and old players an incentive to rejoin the large community by letting players who preorder the expansion to choose between a free level ninety character from scratch or a free boost to ninety from level sixty plus a profession boost to the max level. The first option gives new players to enjoy "Warlords of Draenor" right when the game is released instead of having to spend the time to play through all the expansions. This option of course has its ups and downs. New players will not be able to enjoy the best Blizzard, as of now, has to offer. These being the first "World of Warcraft," the first expansion "The Burning Crusade," and the third expansion "Wrath of the Lich King." However, by doing this players won't have to experience the dismal quest lines and lore that was offered in the fourth expansion "Cataclysm," or the fifth "Mists of Pandaria." As a veteran player, this trade-off seems like the best way to engage the new player base and encourage them to judge by the new and not the old. The second option is primarily marketed towards concurrent subscribers who play the game solely for raiding or PvP. It allows the player more time to focus on objectives instead of spending countless hours farming for materials to level your professions. Although the second option only allows for one profession to be boosted to the maximum level, players will have the advantage in choosing professions such as Enchanting or Jewelcrafting to earn gold to pay for their PvP or raiding expenses.
The booming success of Blizzard's card game, "Hearthstone," is another possibility to explain the fourth quarter's two hundred thousand new subscribers to "World of Warcraft." This new card game became popular in very early stages of beta. So popular that people were willing to pay a fair amount for a beta key. "Hearthstone" hits home to old "World of Warcraft" players with its characters and voice commands. Personally, I have resubscribed to "World of Warcraft" after a one year hiatus due to my fondness for "Hearthstone." The card game could have been created to try and lure players back to the "Warcraft" franchise. Although we will never know for certain what made subscribers come back to "World of Warcraft," the community is certainly happy to see players, new and old, join them on the battlefields of Azeroth.