Remember World of Warcraft? Chances are you've come across someone in the throes of its infamous addiction. Released in 2004, the massively multiplayer online game had 12 million subscribers at its peak in October 2010 -- but has been losing them ever since.
[More from Mashable: Taiwanese Teen Dies After a 40-Hour Diablo III Session]
Now Activision, the world's largest videogame company, has announced that membership in WoW is slipping at its fastest rate ever. With 10 million players three months ago, the cooperative quest game is now down to 9 million.
That still makes it the largest MMO on the planet. But if this rate of depletion were to continue, the fantasy world would be a ghost town by 2014. Investors were worried enough to drive Activision's stock down 5% in after-hours trading, despite the fact that the company had a very good quarter otherwise.
[More from Mashable: ‘Angry Birds’ Creator Drops Trailer for New ‘Amazing Alex’ Game]
So is the trend reversible? There are plenty of reasons to believe so. Mike Morhaime, president of Blizzard -- the Activision-owned company that launched WoW -- told investors he felt many gamers were simply "taking a break" for the summer to play Diablo III.
They would be back in the fall, he said -- especially since Blizzard is releasing its latest expansion to the title, 'Mists of Pandaria,' in September.
A New Gaming Landscape
Then again, other trends in the gaming world are not going WoW's way. The idea of asking gamers to subscribe (WoW costs $15 a month, presuming you want more than a level 20 character) seems increasingly outmoded. Electronic Arts recently made its marquee MMO, Star Wars: The Old Republic, completely free to play -- because its membership numbers had slipped below a million.
Then there's the platform. You can only play WoW on a Mac or PC; it is not yet a tablet or smartphone game, nor is it likely to be for a while, though Blizzard has made vague suggestions in that direction.
But games, and gamers, are going increasingly mobile and tablet-based. The gold standard there is the Infinity Blade series, which looks just as jaw-droppingly beautiful as any WoW landscape -- and which, with a retina iPad, is actually more high-definition than its PC counterpart.
Its price: $5.99. So you could get both games in the Infinity Blade series -- and the forthcoming third game -- for roughly the same cost as one month's WoW subscription.
Where do you think World of Warcraft is headed? Is its era over, or will it rise again, stronger than ever? Share your prediction in the comments.
This story originally published on Mashable here.