Blizzard may not expect World of Warcraft to grow again in the future , but that doesn't mean it's giving up on the game. In fact, Tom Chilton, lead game designer at Blizzard, says the studio has actually expanded the game's development team over the past couple of years.
It's inevitable that a game as long-lived as World of Warcraft will lose players, and new players aren't as likely to stick with it over the long term as those from ten years ago, according to Chilton. That, and the sheer volume of new content that's been added to the game over the past decade, has led Blizzard to change its approach to creating new expansions.
"The game can only get so complicated before it starts to collapse under its own weight, and becomes very cumbersome to do anything new with," he told MCV . "So we are always trying to simplify the game, while at the same time add new things so that the total complexity does not get completely out of control. And you could already argue that the complexity of WoW is already huge. That can be overwhelming to new people coming in."
The World of Warcraft development team has actually expanded from 150 employees to 220, he explained, which will be good for the game in the long run. But it's also one of the reasons the Warlords of Draenor expansion took so long to come to fruition.
"By growing by 50 per cent, you don't get people in off the street who can make content exactly in the way that we would want. There's an acclimatization process," Chilton said. "That has resulted in slowing us down. But in the long-term we are now positioned to release expansions more frequently."
The truth is that even though World of Warcraft's numbers have tumbled precipitously over the past few years, 6.8 million subscribers is the kind of user base most MMOs would kill to have. Sustained, long-term growth may not be on the table anymore, but it's clear that the game is going to be around for a long time yet.