Seven Years of World of Warcraft

To celebrate the seventh anniversary of the standard-setting MMO from Blizzard, Gamasutra has put together a handy timeline of the history of World of Warcraft, while also quickly reminding us just how much the title defied expectations at release and beyond. Here are some higlights:
The company officially announced World of Warcraft in 2001 at the European Computer Trade Show in London. Shortly after that announcement, DFC Intelligence analyst David Cole, years before the game's launch, was quoted as saying, "I expect World of Warcraft to reach 300,000 to 400,000 users very quickly--three to six months would not be unreasonable. The question will probably be: Can it keep those subscribers?"


-March 17, 2005 - World of Warcraft reaches 1.5 million subscribers worldwide.

By this point, World of Warcraft was available in North America, Europe, and Korea. Along with this record subscriber number, the game also broke the record for the most concurrent users, surpassing 500,000 players simultaneously.


September 13, 2005 - Blizzard is put to the test as the "Corrupted Blood" epidemic spreads throughout World of Warcraft's player base. A glitch in a fight with high-level dungeon boss Hakkar saw his highly contagious "Corrupted Blood" attack spread unexpectedly from player to player, killing them off. Blizzard had to reset the servers as the virtual disease spread out of control.


-December 19, 2005 - World of Warcraft reaches 5 million subscribers.

Just over a year since launch, the game hits a new record milestone, further bolstered by the game's steadily increasing European subscribers. In early 2006, the game hit more than 1 million European players, pushing the worldwide subscriber count over 5.5 million.

"World of Warcraft's growth continues to exceed all our expectations," said Mike Morhaime, president and co-founder of Blizzard Entertainment. "We want to reiterate our thanks to the millions of players worldwide and to all the retailers who have enthusiastically supported the game over the past year."


-October 7, 2010 - World of Warcraft hits 12 million worldwide subscribers.

This milestone marks the current all-time peak for World of Warcraft subscribers. The game hit this mark just a few months before the much-anticipated Cataclysm expansion.


-August 3, 2011 - Subscriptions decline to 11.1 million.


-November 8, 2011 - World of Warcraft loses another 800,000 subs.

-November 23, 2011 - World of Warcraft turns seven years old. The game remains the dominant subscription MMORPG by far, despite the fact that key development talent has long since moved on to work on the next Blizzard MMORPG, project "Titan." At its seventh birthday, the game remains formidable competition even for new MMOs.

One has to wonder whether the release of the upcoming expansions Mists of Pandaria will make Blizzard reach numbers like 12 million subscribers, and if not, whether this means the game is past its apex at this point.