|Shoddily-constructed Graphics ftw!|
I logged in late yesterday evening after a fairly long and hard RL day, and my first move (as normal) was to check for any auction wins in my Inbox. Instead of cash I found something else: a member of my Guild had decided to quit, and had left me notice of this via the in-game mail.
To be honest, I find myself not being particularly surprised at this turn of events. The Guild is very quiet currently, on an average night we're lucky to pull double figures for appearances. Many of our regulars have been swamped by Real Life, or are off playing other games (Rift, Dragon Age 2 and Minecraft being the most popular distractions) and as a GM I find myself wondering what we as a Guild should be doing to counter this drop in active membership. Both the official forums and many of my favourite discussion areas are full of 'I'm quitting WoW, this is the end of Warcraft' threads and I have to concede that, where I'm standing right now, I think there is a movement of people that I know away from the game. On the flip side to this however there is still lag in SW, there are vast numbers of people playing at the times that I do, but I don't recognise the names in the AH as often as normal. Ironically my Friends List seems to be full of people doing 10 mans on an average evening, whilst I'm picking up the odd Heroic or doing achievements.
Winter is normally the peak time for us, with less distractions and more people 'at home' when it's cold. With this drop I know that come the summer months we will struggle to run an active Raid team (we're not exactly turning people away right now) and so it's probably time to start thinking about what the Guild will do about this. Whilst we do that I know we are in good company, with the number of Recruitment adverts in Trade steadily on the rise. We're not alone, and finding good people who will raid consistently is becoming more and more of an issue for a certain type of Guild.
With Warcraft apparently due to be launched into Latin America and Japan this year, it's clear that Blizzard don't consider the game to be on it's last legs just yet, but what is apparent with the delay of Firelands to 4.2 is that Blizzard recognise the pace of raid progression beyond the high-end guilds is slowing. The inclusion of the two Troll instances specifically as five mans could have been made for a Guild like us who's not really steaming through the end game content. The ultimate irony for me in ZG, I realised last night, is the bow that was my First Ever Epic that I'll be playing for a second time: we've done all this before. When we go into the Firelands to kill Ragnaros (assuming that there's enough of us of course) the only difference between him and his MC incarnation will be two legs and a couple of years of experience. We've already beaten Ragnaros, after all, once a week when there were 39 other people to slack with. This time around I have more HP, and it'll take longer to kill him. Everything else is pretty much constant.
In fact, there's a school of thought that says that there could logically become a point where Blizzard will make raid instances in 5, 10 and 25 man flavours thus allowing anyone (theoretically) a chance to take part in End Game... but 5 mans aren't raiding, are they? 10 mans weren't raiding either back in the day, they were considered the poor man's end game, but now they're just as relevant because they mean you don't have to rely on vast numbers of people to enjoy the game with. Rebranding ZA and ZG from ten to five man really is a master stroke, because they'll give the growing number of long term serial casuals somewhere to go when ten man raiding becomes impractical.
I've spent a long time playing in Azeroth, and although I'm not ready to give up just yet, I can see the time when I am. If Blizzard are smart, that'll be about the time they launch Titan... ^^