Blizzard Backs Away from Subscriptions for Its Next Big MMO

Unfortunately for Blizzard, the gaming world is no longer kind to subscription-based games.

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We don’t know what kind of game Blizzard’s Project Titan will be, or when it will come into existence beyond a tentative 2016 release date. But one thing we do know about the next big project from the makers of World of Warcraft is that it probably won’t involve a subscription.

“We’re in the process of selecting a new direction for the project and re-envisioning what we want the game to be,” Blizzard president Mike Morhaime said in an earnings call this week, according to Develop. Blizzard had previously announced that it was pushing reset on the mystery game, which was expected to be MMO-like in nature.

“While we can’t talk about the details yet, it is unlikely to be a subscription-based MMO RPG.”

Assuming Blizzard stays true to Morhaime’s words and doesn’t go for subscriptions, it would be an interesting sign of the times. World of Warcraft has been a cash cow for Blizzard by virtue of its $15 per month subscription, on top of the price of the game and its many expansion packs.

Unfortunately for Blizzard, the gaming world is no longer kind to subscription-based games, including World of Warcraft, which just lost another 600,000 players. Instead of charging for subscriptions, publishers are taking inspiration from free-to-play games, charging an up-front cost and offering additional in-game items for purchase. (Guild Wars 2 is a wonderfully-executed example.) You no longer need to be tethered to subscription to scratch that loot/raid/quest itch, and games that have tried to go the subscription route, such as Star Wars: The Old Republic and The Secret World, have been forced to change course.

Subscription-based games can survive–Eve Online, after all, is 10 years old and still hosting gigantic space battles–but launching any new game with a mandatory subscription is a risky bet, let alone one that will take at least six years to develop. That may explain why Destiny, Activision Blizzard’s other upcoming massive multiplayer megafranchise, will not require a subscription.