A couple of weeks back, I read a post by Graylo where he pondered the vitality of 25 man raiding as part of his “MoP Wishlist” series that he’s been writing. I agreed with a lot of what he had to say in regards to the struggles that 25 man raiders have faced, and I do think that 25s are a dying breed. Throughout the course of this expansion I’ve watched guild after guild close their doors, many of whom I had great respect for and who stood the test of time and survived…until now.
Watching many long-standing, successful guilds shut up shop, and having first hand experience with some of the struggles 25s are faced with, I was already intimately familiar with the challenges that Cataclysm brought to guilds trying to retain a 25 man environment. Graylo, of course, put some numbers to his insights and speculations, but I don’t really think those numbers are needed to show that 25 man raiding is slowly bleeding out.
I think that as long as Blizzard continues to develop content for 25 man raids, those running the progression race will continue to utilize that raid size as their preferred raiding environment – but I can’t help but wonder if by the end of Mists these will be the only people able to sustain 25 man raiding. I also question if Mists will continue to be plagued by the balancing challenges that Cataclysm has seen – which I think has had a significant impact on the survivability of many guilds (even though Graylo disagrees on this point).
I suppose the question to ask, would be if 10s are truly the cause of this, or if game stagnation has a larger impact. If you ask me, I think it’s a combination of both. The fact is that the evolution of 10s caused a lot of over-saturation of the market as far as guilds were concerned. There are now more guilds than there are active raiders to staff them. Recruiting (or the inability to recruit players that meet your needs as a guild) has been one of the top driving factors causing many guilds (of both sizes) to call it quits. However, I don’t really think that you can explore recruitment without asking what is causing the attrition of current members. Occasionally it’s people realizing that their current guild isn’t satisfying their needs and moving on – but a lot of the time it’s players moving on to something completely unrelated to the game.
A lot of folks speculate that the root cause of this is an overall older playerbase. And it does make some sense – the older players become the more likely they are to have other things that occupy their free time; be it families,work or other obligations. And while I do agree with a lot of this, I think there is probably more to it as well. If I look at myself, as an example, I used to play all the time. ALL the time. I did alt runs, I leveled alts, I farmed achievements – I made my own fun in WoW and almost always had something to do. Seven years later, and I log into raid, but often find other things to do with my free time outside of that. Granted, the problems that I’ve had with my hands have dictated that to some extent, but even when my hands are feeling fairly well and I could play I find myself drawn to some non-WoW related activities.
While I’m sure this is healthy for me, I do question what changed in the game that has me looking for other activities when I have extra free time. Is it just because I’ve done it for so long? Or has something fundamental changed in the game that leaves it less appealing to me? It’s a hard question to answer. I have very recently questioned my future with the game and thought through all possibilities – and ultimately I decided I wasn’t ready to give up yet, and would at the very least start Mists. When I ultimately came to this conclusion, I couldn’t really put my finger on the why, just that I knew it wasn’t quite my time yet.
I know, I digress some. But I do think that the exploration of what is pushing people out of the game, and conversely what keeps them playing, is important to any conversation surrounding if WoW is able to sustain anything, including 25 man raiding. Maybe that’s because while I do feel that the accessibility of 10 man raiding has put an irreversible dent in the survivability of 25 man raiding, I do not think that it is solely responsible for the decline. I think there are probably a lot of other factors involved, that is just the easiest one to isolate.
Do I think 25s will continue to be a viable raid option moving forward? No, I really don’t. I think the attrition of guilds from this raid format is going to continue as a result of many of the challenges that 25s are faced with, and I think it is going to come to a point where such a small portion of the playerbase takes part in the activity that it’s just not going to be worth the developer’s time to continue to produce the content. And, honestly, I think the sooner Blizzard comes to this realization the better it is going to be for the game. Don’t get me wrong, I love 25 man raiding and I don’t really want to raid 10s, I just don’t see 25 man raiding as remaining sustainable looking forward. Frankly, I was surprised that it survived into Mists and I’ll be curious to see how many 25 man guilds manage to survive Cataclysm and how many crumble into the mists.
What do you think? Is the decline in 25 man raiding irreversible? What do you think it responsible for the decline? Do you think there is enough interest in the playerbase to sustain the format? Do you think it’s worth Blizzard’s development hours to continue creating the content?