Updated Wed, Dec 16, 2009 by Aelryn
by Cameron "Aelryn" Sorden
Let me say this up front: This isn't an anti-raiding article. I think raids are fun. I've raided in a number of guilds across several games throughout my gaming career and it can be a great time. Raiding can be extremely satisfying, helpful for forming tight guild connections, and is a good way to really test your mettle as you try to form a 25-40 man team into a cohesive fighting unit. However, I think it's got no business being in World of Warcraft.
The idea for this post started when I read another post on Elder Game where Eric Heimburg discusses why he thinks that WoW succeeded in spite of its solo to group progression instead of because of it.
World of Warcraft has shown us that we were wrong about grouping: MMO players do not need to be pressured into grouping in order for an MMO to be successful. But on the other hand, when you reach WoW's level cap, you are almost forced to be a grouper (and a raider, to boot) if you want to do fun things. Now, this approach doesn't seem to be particularly successful if we look at how many players leave the game when they hit the level cap. The players don't want to switch from soloing to grouping, so they go away.
WoW made such a splash in the industry for a number of complex reasons: great timing, unprecedented polish, an established IP, plenty of hype, and mass migrations of players, to name a few. One especially key thing that drove its success was that it was accessible to the solo and casual player. Anybody could jump in and make meaningful progress on their character while playing just a few hours each week. That's the thing that kept and still keeps many players involved in the game when they would have been turned off or burned out with the steep time and grouping requirements of many prior-generation MMOs.With WoW recently hitting the 9.3 million player mark, it's obvious to everyone that they're doing something right. But is raiding really part of that recipe for success, or is it something that's an unnecessary resource hog for the majority of the WoW population?
Some Crunchy Numbers
WowJutsu is a site that tracks raiding progression in guilds using equipment data from the Armory. It's the same site that caused a little stir a while back when people were complaining that hardly anyone had seen the inside of the Black Temple. The current numbers reflect the progress of about 2 million players over 81,000 guilds. Here are the percentages of those guilds in the completion of various WoW raid targets:
Karazhan and Gruul's aren't looking too bad, but four other raid zones have been completed by only about 30% of the guilds. The two hardest have been completed by only 5% of the guilds. Now, keep in mind that these numbers represent only the top 2 million players which are currently in raiding guilds-- WoW has 9.3 million customers, 7.3 million of which have never even defeated a boss in any of these zones. That means that the six hardest instances of the game have been defeated by only about 6% of the total WoW playerbase (about 600,000 players).
That's six whole zones, with scripted events, painstaking itemization, and hundreds of hours of development time and artwork paid for by money from subscribers that 94% of World of Warcraft players will never use, seeing as the Burning Crusade has been out for almost a year now and the next WoW expansion, Wrath of the Lich King, is right around the corner (bringing a new gear wipe with it that will make these current raid zones obsolete, much like BWL and MC are now). When's the last time you stopped by Naxxramas?