People say Rift is losing players. People say WoW has 12 million players. Let's lift this rock and see what's underneath.
Rift's numbers have always been expected to do the following
- sell a lot of boxes/digital downloads at launch/pre-launch
- increase until time came for the first sub payment
- spike down as people taking a casual look decide they don't want to pay a sub
- then either hold or grow or decline depending on how well the game is doing.
So when people say Rift is losing players they're talking about the spike of people who just wanted a quick look, people who try 20 MMOs a year. This is perfectly normal - even WoW has 70% of new players leave before level 10 (and that's comparatively good).
The 4th category, how well Rift is doing if you don't count the spike is what matters. And indications are that Rift is a solid game that will grow and grow like other solid steady MMOs such as Eve and Lotro. What hurt WAR and AOC were to a large degree technical problems (like Crashes to Desktop) and these just don't plague Rift in the same way.
Regarding WoW's numbers it's made up of the following: at peak about 4.5 million in NA and Europe plus a large number from Asia where WoW is basically a f2p and counts people who play once for 2 minutes as "subscribers". EU population is roughly the same as NA. So NA population at peak was about 2.2 million. WoW is nowhere near it's peak now. It's probably under half the numbers as the shiny newness of Cataclysm has worn off and the current content is very lacklustre, recycling dungeons that many people got bored of years ago. If we guess that WoW in NA is doing about half of what it did at peak (and that's generous) it puts WoW's NA numbers at just over a million.
Rift hit a million before it even launched, mainly in NA. It grew very fast in the month, suffered the expected downspike and seems to be growing steadily. I strongly suspect Rift has more North American players than World of Warcraft, or if not, it will do soon.
Clearly it doesn't suit WoW to have people think this which is why they don't release their North American sub numbers publicly.