World of Warcraft subscription decline "makes sense" says lead dev. PC is "re-emerging"

Owen Hill at

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Tom Chilton, lead developer on life-altering MMO, World of Warcraft, has been speaking to us about the recent dip in World of Warcraft's playerbase and the value of PC as a gaming platform.

Tom says that PCs are on the up, and that the "big spike" and "bigger dip" in player numbers post-Cataclysm is not a cause for concern. This is good news for everyone.

"In a lot of ways I see the PC as potentially a re-emerging sort of platform," says Tom. "I think that the PC has always offered ways to approach games that you can’t necessarily approach on console, even if it’s just because of UI restraints."

Tom understands the strengths behind our control scheme of choice: "Keyboard and mouse opens up options that you can’t get replicate as easily with a controller in RTS games like Starcraft 2. If you look at the way we do an MMO like World of Warcraft, our communication method and all that kind of stuff, it kind of implies a level of UI complexity that would be really hard to pull off on console."

"I think that combined with the digital distribution in a lot of ways has the potential to me to make the PC a really strong gaming platform going into the future," he continued.

Blizzard CEO Mike Morheime recently mentioned that WoW's player base has declined at a faster rate than they did after the release of previous WoW expansion, Wrath of the Lich King. I asked Tom whether he was concerned about the drop in subscriptions.

"We had a spike when Wrath of the Lich King launched and we saw a steady decrease all the way up to when Cataclysm launched," says Tom. "So it's a fairly normal pattern for us. It’s interesting that with Cataclysm we saw a much bigger spike than we had ever seen before with an expansion.

"I think the things about Cataclysm that inherently gave it more reactivation appeal than our previous expansions because of the redo of the level 1 to 60, stuff like that... the big spike is also followed by a bigger dip. So some of that makes sense and is reasonable."

The lead developer did admit that Cataclysm might have been lacking in fresh endgame content: "I don’t think we did a good enough job of evolving the endgame. In terms of adding new types of PvE activities for people to do.

"At the time we kinda felt like ‘Oh, what people really need is more content; they’re tired of Icecrown Citadel, they’ve been doing that for about a year. That’s where we need precious new content.’ But I think it goes a little deeper than that. I think we have to be more diligent about creating new opportunities for new types of gameplay at max level."