In early March of this year I got an e-mail from Blizzard asking me to come back to WoW for 7 days free, to see how awesome the game had become since I quit late last year. I didn't pay too much attention to it, firstly because MMO companies do this sort of thing all the time and secondly because I don't think WoW has actually changed much since late last year. It was a "limited time only" offer, and expired (unused) recently. I don't even have WoW installed on my computer right now, it would probably take 7 days just to download and patch it thanks to Blizzard's high-end super-speedy downloading system.
Just yesterday, I got another of these e-mails from Blizzard, asking me to come back and try the game for 7 days free. Getting another one struck me as a little odd. In the years since WoW has been released I've spent more time unsubscribed to the game than subscribed, yet the March e-mail was the first "please come back!" I've ever gotten from Blizzard. Now I've gotten another one, the very next month? I apparently have a different definition of "limited time only" than Blizzard. Of course, I have a different definition than Blizzard for many things, which was part of the problem in the first place.
Now, this is going beyond coincedental to get two such e-mails in two months, shortly after the release of a solid competitor and with two heavy hitters coming (presumably) within the next 12 months. Is Blizzard finally feeling the pinch? While I don't doubt they're total user numbers are staying the same or even increasing due to Wrath just recently being released in China and Cataclysm still waiting in the wings for those players, but could their North American and European user numbers (their most profitable customers) actually be falling? Is competition finally taking a bite out of the MMO behemoth that is WoW?
I certainly hope so, and not because I want WoW to die a burning, horrible, death (I don't). I hope Blizzard is losing customers because it will force them to actually be competitive instead of just wallowing in their massive profits. The update pace for WoW is abysmal. As Tobold mentioned on his blog, they also can't seem to make up their minds on who their target audience is and what kind of game they want to be. Blizzard hasn't had to, because nobody could compete with WoW. Why re-invest in the game when it's making so much money with them doing virtually nothing? If WoW is finally bleeding true subscribers (NA and Euro players) maybe they'll finally stop resting on their laurels and once again fight to make WoW the best game it can possibly be.