World of Warcraft has been around for a long time. World of Warcraft started in late 2004 and until today is one of the most sustainable subscription based business out there. The game has been around way before the whole SaaS model was popular. It was probably one of the early adopters to picking up the SaaS model.

Here’s a quick glance of World of Warcraft’s growth curve over time.

Over time the game had its ups and downs, but notice that even at it’s lowest, there were over 6.8 million subscribers. Each time it drops, World of warcraft finds its way and comes back up.

Most games that we’ve played in the past, die out at some point. I’ve personally played a lot of addicting MMOs in the past, but they all tend to fade away after nomore than a year. So, how does World of warcraft do it?

Community

World of Warcraft have one of the most active gaming communities out there. There are thousands of world of warcraft forums out there and everyone is always actively contributing to the community. The guys over at CMX always talks about how important it is to build a community around your product and have those people advocate for you. Most World of Warcraft people are die hard fans. Not only do they play the game, they stream the game, contribute to helping members in the game, and most importantly advocate for the game.

Reddit itself has a subreddit for world of warcraft players with over 225,000 fans.

Constant Updates

A game is never perfect and a game will never fully satisfy every player. World of Warcraft does a good job with listening to player’s feedbacks and then updating accordingly to it. The game itself not only releases constant update to fix bugs and add new features, but also comes out with expansions all the time.

Coming out with new expansions keeps the players engaged. It also generates a lot of buzz within the game. People are always talking about the latest release and what’s going to be in it. Really rarely do you hear bad things about an expansion release. Most players are usually pretty excited about it. Here is a quick look at the sales of the expansions that World of Warcraft came out with.

Balanced Game

What I mean by a balanced game is that all players have the same rights, gears, quest etc. Some games offer players in game purchases to make themselves more powerful. Some other games offer in game purchases for skins or special gears to make their characters look better. World of Warcraft is extremely balanced in terms of what users can receive in the game. This is possible because of the monthly subscription fee that they charge their users.

A lot of people in the SaaS business say that users won’t use an app that is free, mainly because you never know how long it is going to be around for or if the company will be making an effort to update it. With the subscription fee, Blizzard is able to hire more staff to pump out new items and updates for it’s players and market their product well.

This is what one of the dedicated fans said on the World of Warcraft forums,

“WoW is always a step ahead. Sure there are games coming out with newer features and functionality everyday, some which are more advanced than what wow offers, although the new tech eventually gets into wow and when combined with its massive amount of content, accessibility, social inertia, marketing, brand, and extensive user add-ons, you get a product which is impossible to match or outclass. If you spent enough time and money you could theoretically surpass wow in popularity but it would take more than any company is willing to risk.”

In Game Addiction

One of the most powerful thing about World of Warcraft is its in game community. The guilds, the raids, the players, and the competitiveness is what gets the players to constantly log back on. People want to log back on to see their in game friends and there is always something to do within the game. It’s like living in a second world.

I’ve questioned a few world of warcraft players on why they still play the game today. 3 out of 4 replied with, “I’ve already invested a lot of time into it that’s become a habit.” Eyal spoked about in his book “Hooked”, how important it is to keep your users hooked onto the app. The best way to do this is by either solving a real problem or having such a good user experience that people cannot stop going back to.

The game itself is extremely competitive. Everyday, people are training their characters to get stronger so that they can beat other people in Player vs Player fights. They are always hunting for the best gear to make their characters more powerful. The point is that there is always something to do in the game to make the character stronger. This keeps people engaged within the game.

There are a lot of rewards in the game. Dropbox rewards it’s users with free storage space for every referral the user makes. World of Warcraft rewards its players with in-game gear, powerful items, in game currency, achievements, experience points and many other things that keeps the player excited.

I’m not a gamer myself, but I’ve gamed intensively in the past. The only reason I spent a lot of time gaming was because all my friends were playing the same game. I’m a competitive person and wanted to spend my time on getting better in the game. Competitiveness drives addiction and World of Warcraft does an excellent job with this. They host paid tournaments that make professional gaming possible. Blizzard does an amazing job hosting daily guild wars and raids to keep the game exciting.

Another quote from the World of Warcraft forums,

“No other game has such a deeply entrenched community. For another MMO to take me away from WoW, it would have to take all of my guildies and bnet friends as well, which would be difficult to do because not everyone can run newer games, not everyone wants to shell out the cash for a new game, not everyone feels like learning a new game, etc.
A new MMO would just have to be mind-blowingly awesome, and most of them have just ranged between pretty good to mind-numbingly boring.”

Subscription businesses are nothing new, but overall I feel that World of Warcraft is one of the most successful subscription businesses of all time.

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