For the first time publically, World of Warcraft maker Blizzard has acknowledged that Star Wars: The Old Republic is having some impact on declining World of Warcraft subscriptions. Last week Blizzard acknowledged to Eurogamer that the decline in World of Warcraft subscriber numbers "has to at least be attributable to [Star Wars] The Old Republic." Of course some of the decline is attributable to the natural decline most MMO's face after a lengthy life span. For example, in 2010 WOW had 12 million subscribers. A year later it dipped to 10.3 million.
"We certainly do look at [where WOW players go], and we have a very smart bunch of guys who do our analytics for us," said senior World of Warcraft producer John Lagrave.
"Of course people are trying Star Wars - our development team are trying Star Wars!," he continued. "I'm one of the few people who's still playing it actually, but yeah we've seen a dip in subs. It certainly has to at least be attributable to The Old Republic, but it's also attributable to people who want to wait and get Mists of Pandaria, so it's not surprising."
"Are they going elsewhere? Yes they are. We don't have a lock on all the best games in the world - Skyrim was an amazing game."
The exodus in subscribers has forced Blizzard to refocus the game slightly. Now new players can play the World of Warcraft trial up to player level 20 for free, and to entice players back into WOW they are offering current players special rewards for bringing former players back in.
One thing is for certain - World of Warcraft won't be going free-to-play any time soon.
"Right now we're very happy with the subscription system with World of Warcraft," Lagrave said. "We think it works very well. Mike [Morhaime] talks about the value we give you for that price-point, and that's a fairly legitimate statement. Certainly a very cheap form of entertainment. So yeah, we're comfortable with the subscription system. I won't say never on that, but gosh not now and it's been seven years! You'd think we'd have gotten there before now, so I don't think so."