So, we’ve hit the point in WoW’s expansion cycle where people tend to get bored, have RL issues pop up, or otherwise get tired of their current guild’s progress and want to abandon ship. It happens about the point where we hit the last raid instance every expansion. Actually, in Vanilla & BC, Blizzard “fixed” this slump by releasing additional raid instances (Naxx & Sunwell).
However, this time, Blizzard has chosen to not bail out the guilds who are struggling to keep their members interested. The only thing we have coming in the future is a tiny dungeon, which I expect will hold people’s attentions for about a week or two before they go back to being bored.
Now, a LOT of guilds haven’t killed the Lich King yet, and only a very small number of guilds have killed the Lich King on hard mode. So, you would think that guilds would still be going strong. However, I’ve spent the last week or two recruiting for my own guild, and watching ALL the guilds around us having the exact same recruitment problems. Conspiracy is only staying afloat by constantly recruiting and having multiple people tirelessly working to keep a full raiding roster, even though it’s a really awesome guild to be in (really friendly, does make good progress – but doesn’t do hard modes, no drama). We’ve actually been pretty successful in recruiting new people, though we can’t ever stop recruiting from this point on. I expect Conspiracy to make it, but I expect a lot of other guilds out there will not survive the pre-Cata slump, and knowing that makes me sad.
So, what’s the problem with WOW’s pre-expansion raiding slump? A lot of people are just raiding in PUGs, and so they don’t want to bother trying to even join a guild to raid with, so those people who would normally join guilds are just… not joining guilds at all (or are being part of a guild without raiding with their guild). As Stacy & Clinton on TLC’s “What not to wear” would say, “Why buy the loaf of bread when you can have the slices for free?” Since people can raid without being in a guild, they just don’t bother joining. On the guild recruitment forums, 90% of the people posting there are looking to skip ahead in progression and join a guild that has killed the Lich King already, and are currently working on hard modes (which means they are looking to be in the top 5% of guilds, and the other 95% of guilds are pretty much left struggling). The vast majority of people who you would normally recruit through realm forums just aren’t trying to find a new guild after theirs dissolves; instead they are either quitting or PUGing in larger numbers than the people who are joining new guilds. Some of the pre-expansion slump problems happen every expansion pack, but the fact that people are able to PUG even the first handful of bosses into ICC is going to make it almost impossible for a lot of guilds to survive the WotLK to Cata transition, even though Beta testing for Cata hasn’t even started yet. The pre-expansion slump hit early, and it’s hitting harder than it ever has before. And I really feel sorry for everyone who is struggling right now to recruit and keep their raids going.
As someone who loves raiding in a guild, I wish Blizzard cared more about guilds in this game, and I wish Blizzard hadn’t abandoned guilds in WotLK. I’m working hard to keep Conspiracy on track, because I love my guild and I want my guild to make it through this transition period. I will keep recruiting & trying my best to keep things afloat as best I can, to support the officers in my guild. However, at every step of the way, I feel like Blizzard abandoned guilds and encouraged raid PUGs to dissolve the game’s guild structure, and they are making it hard (or impossible) for good guild leaders to find replacements when people get bored and leave their guilds. I also don’t think Cataclysm will fix it. I think people will just keep PUG’ing raids, and making it difficult or impossible for raiding guilds to function, except at the top 5% of progression.
So, now that I’ve painted a grim picture of the future, how do I propose fixing it?
- The guild leveling system isn’t enough, unless they can discourage PUGs in some other way. Since the guild leveling system isn’t likely going to give good raiding advantages, then there will still be little (or no) benefit to raiding with the guild.
- Raid content seen as “easy & accessible” encourages PUGs over guilds. If you don’t have to actually work together with your group, why does it matter if you raid with your friends or strangers? Having to understand strategies & coordinate with each other (for non-hard mode fights) is something that was really missing from all the raid dungeons except a handful of fights.
- Hard modes suck in WotLK. Hard modes need to actually be interesting progression that people want to do, rather than being boring and uninteresting. Or, ditch hard modes all together and find a happier middle ground.
- Change the raid size to 10 & 20. A big problem is that a 25-man guild will also run 10-mans, and 25 is not a number that is divisible by 10. So, people have to be left on the bench every week, or rotated in/out to have inconsistent groups every week. When you combine this with the problems that hard modes have created for the majority of raiding guilds (ie. not the top 3%), I’m really amazed that there are any raiding guilds at all still left in the game.
- Release enough content to keep people interested. There have only been 4 real raid dungeons released in all of WotLK. They haven’t released enough content, instead relying on Hard modes to try and keep people’s attention. The problem is that hard modes are just the same bosses, but require more work for little reward.
- Make recruitment easier. I don’t know how they can do this, but it is really hard (and sometimes impossible) to recruit new players to a guild. I’m not sure how they could fix their broken guild recruitment system, but something needs to be done.
- Or, just do nothing and continue to make guilds something that isn’t important for raiding, and they can further trivialize guilds by implementing a random raid dungeon cross-server system that makes needing a guild to raid a thing of the past (I really don’t like this option, though).
Conclusions: The thing I like most about WOW is raiding with a guild, who are a group of people that I become friends with. I enjoy being able to work together with other guild members to achieve a common goal. I really don’t enjoy raiding with random PUGs where I have no social reward for getting to know them. The months before a new expansion’s release is particularly hard on raiding guilds, and it is hard to watch SO MANY guilds around me struggle to maintain their memberships and trying so hard to keep their members interested in a game that isn’t designed to be interesting during the pre-expansion slump.
I really just wish Blizzard cared enough about guilds to fix these same problems that happen expansion after expansion, and make it easier (rather than more difficult) to keep raiding guilds alive during these transition phases. I’m going to just keep constantly trying to recruit new members to my guild, and work at helping to support my guild’s officers survive the pre-Cata slump. I know my guild can make it, if we are able to keep recruiting new members and finding new awesome people to come join our ranks, along with finding new ways to keep our current members interested in the game (and we have had a handful of REALLY great applicants join our ranks recently, so it IS possible to find great people!). I hope your guilds can, too (but if they don’t, you can come join mine, lol).