As we've all seen over the last few days the 10man = 25man change is very controversial. The general tension between 10man raiders and 25mans raiders has boiled over into name calling even though both sides have good points. Despite all of piss and vinegar being thrown around, I think this change has been proposed with the best of intentions. From a high level it sounds like a great goal. Allow raiders to achieve a high level of progression through multiple paths. In this utopia 10man raiding and 25man raiding coexist as separate but equal paths.
Unfortunately that is not the way things work in the real world, and I think I've found a good example to show why 10man raiding and 25man raiding will have a hard time coexisting has equals. Here is a quote from a comment made by Ghostcrawler almost a year ago.
The basic design problem for Balance, as I know you know, comes down to Wrath and Stafire just being very similar spells. One is always going to win out by virtue of damage or cast time.(src)Of course, Ghostcrawler wasn't talking about raid size in that quote, but I think the observation applies to the current situation. I think Blizzard is capable of making 10man raiding and 25man raiding very similar in quality and difficulty, but I think it is impossible for them to make the two perfectly equal. In the end one will be better then the other in the eyes of the raiding community.
I won't speculate as to which format would dominate because there are to many unknowns at this point. That said, I do think there is a high risk that one of the formats will dominate and prevent the happy 10man/25man coexisting utopia.
Why 10man could dominate raiding: Blizzard said it themselves. "We of course recognize the logistical realities of organizing larger groups of people." While I don't think 10mans will run themselves as some of the current WotLK groups do, I do think it is a reality that organizing 10 people is less difficult then organizing 25. Everything else being equal most players will choose the path of least resistance and 10mans will dominate.
Why 25mans could dominate raiding: If Blizzard truly values the 25man format then they will try and come up with away to reward the increased logistical difficulties found in 25man. In fact, Blizzard has already made a proposal to do just that. "25-player versions will drop a higher quantity of loot per player (items, but also badges, and even gold), making it a more efficient route if you're able to gather the people."
The problem is that for this to work, the raiders have to value the reward (more loot) more then the cost (higher logistical difficulty), and I'm not sure that more loot will do that for more then a few weeks. I went over this in some in my first post but loot is only a reward for so long. Eventually, people will gear themselves up and need fewer things from the instance. More gear will be sharded, badges will just be collecting dust, and I doubt raiding will be an efficient way to make gold. Therefore, "more loot" is unlikely to hold people to the 25man format for long.
So, once again, lets assume that Blizzard truly values the 25man format and tries to come up with a way to reward those that participate in it. They could do this by offering titles, achievements, or mounts, without offering something with game value like better loot. But this presents separate issues. Once again Blizzard would be favoring one format over the other. If 25mans have exclusive and desirable rewards then players would feel compelled to participate in 25man raids and they would become the favored format. The 10man format would not get the respect from the community that many people think it deserves and we will be in pretty much the same situation we are now.
A Possible Solution:
All that said, I think I have an interesting idea on how 10mans and 25mans could coexist peacefully. What if 25man raids were the exclusive source of raid resources like epic gems and BiS enchants?
This could be similar to what happened in TBC with Black Temple and Hyjal, but without such a restrictive attunement process. It could be a way to provide 25man raiders with better "gear" without restricting the 10mans access to it. The 25man raiders would have access to cheap resources to gem and enchant their gear when the got a new item. When they no longer need the gems and enchants they could sell them on the AH to make some gold.
In the end, I think it would be a market based way to balance the 10man and 25man raiding communities in a natural and fair way. If there were very few 25man guilds on the server, then gems and enchants would be very expensive. This would encourage people to form more 25man guilds to either get the resources or just to make gold. If there were many 25man guilds on a server then the market would be flooded with cheap raid resources. This would encourage 25man raiders to switch to the 10man format because they could get the same level of challenge, with less hassle, and the cost would be small because raid resources would be so cheap on the AH.
There are holes in my play. They would need to find a way to prevent 10mans or goblins from farming lower level instances to get the greater rewards and flooding the market. For example, I wouldn't want to see bunch of ICC geared players farming Naxx for gems, but I think those issues could be worked out. I'm sure the JC's and Enchanters out there would cry foul as well.
I think this idea has promise. Ultimately the fewer logistical issues that 10mans have would be counteracted by the greater need for gold and farming. I the end this would reduce the 10mans logistical advantage.
Other Topics from the Raid Progression Changes:
Gating: To be honest I go back and forth on this topic. I don't like being held back but I think it eases the transition from one tier of content to the next. For example, when we moved from ToC to ICC, my guild was able to burn through the first 4 bosses fairly easily. With that we were able to go back and spend a little more time in ToGC and complete Heroic Anub. If the switch had been flipped completely on the first day, we would have gone right to Festergut right after Saurfang and might have missed out on the Anub kill. On the other hand, I can see where the elite raiders are coming from. We've already done these instances for months. When new content is finally released we want to see it as soon as possible and I would hate getting it in bite size pieces as well. In the end, I favor gating for selfish reasons, but I can see where the opponents are coming from.
Limited Tries: When limited tries were first announced I had high hopes. I thought it might be a good way to balance the playing field between the guilds who raided 20 or more hours a week when instances were released and guilds like mine who only raided 9 hours a week.
In the end it didn't work out and I think most people agree that this was a failed experiment and are glad to see them gone. In ToGC 50 tries was to much and didn't limit anyone but the most elite of raiders who raided for hours on end. In my 9 hour guild I don't think we ever used more them 25 tries in a week. In ICC, 10 tries was much to little for Putricide. In the end it prompted conflict between raiders for even small mistakes, excessive discussion, and eventually the forces many guilds to practice on ten mans and with alts. Hopefully they will be gone in all forms in Cataclysm.
Badges/Emblems become Points: I think this is a natural progression of the system. The way Badges of Justice worked TBC had big issues with people farming huge amounts of badges be fore a patch was released so that they could get the rewards right away. In WotLK, having 5 different types of emblems has been confusing and annoying. Converting my Triumph emblems to Hero emblems means I have to talk to 4 different vendors just to buy a gem or a piece of BoA gear. I welcome this change.