When they announced that 10mans and 25mans would share a lockout and drop the same loot almost two years ago, I got worried. As much as I liked my WotLK 10man group, I prefer the 25man format for progression raiding, and it was obvious two years ago that 25man raids would struggle under this new design. The organizational advantages of a 10man raid alone would push many guilds to the 10man format, and the predictions made of 25mans slow death are coming true. If Blizzard wants to preserve the 25man format, they are going to need to make some changes to prevent the slide into 10mans.
* All WoW Progress numbers in this post were pulled as of 2/6/12.
I think it's commonly accepted that participation in 25man raiding is in decline, but wanted to look at the numbers just to see how much. And to be clear, I realize that that not all of these comparisons are Apple to Apple, but I do think it shows how dramatic the decline has been.
This isn't a fair comparison, but lets look at the ICC numbers compared to the T11 25man first. According to WoW Progress 16,103 guilds killed Heroic Marrowgar in ICC, and 4,698 guilds killed Heroic Halfus on 25man in T11. That implies a 70% decline in 25man guilds with the start of Cata. However, since 10man raiding wasn't equal to 25mans in ICC, the ICC number is obviously inflated. Also, ICC was up for a year as the main tier of content, while T11 was the main tier for only 6 months and it's impossible to say how many of the guilds in the ICC number existed at the end of WotLK. All that said I think it's fair to say that a lot of players jumped from the 25man format to the 10man format at the start of Cata for what ever reason.
However, I'm sure some of you would argue that that doesn't really show a decline in 25man raiding. It could be argued that it shows that people didn't really want to raid 25mans during ICC but had to for the greater rewards. I have to agree that is definitely part of the issue. We can debate how much that contributed to the, but it's definitely part of it and makes those numbers unreliable. Fortunately I have some better numbers that really show the decline of 25man raiding.
I've taken the easiest heroic boss from each tier and compared number of kills in 25man to the total number of kills on either mode to see what the participation in 25man is. Here are the numbers:
I think these numbers point to the decline of 25man raiding very clearly. As you can see the kill rates on 25man have declined with each tier of new content going from 17.45% in T11, to 13.21% in T12, to 11.28 % in T13.
There have been some balancing issues between the 25man and 10man formats, but I don't think any of these bosses are significantly harder on 25man then they are on 10man or vice versa. If anything, I would say that these numbers underestimate the decline of 25man raid since I think it could easily be argued that 25man raiders as a whole are probably more progression focused then 10man raiders as a whole.
Cause of the Decline:
I would like to blame the decline on difficulty imbalances between 10s and 25s, but I can't do that. A lot of 25 man raiders like to claim that 10s are easier, but the numbers don't really show that. Take a look at the heroic Kill percentages:
|25man Cnt||25man %||10man Cnt||10man %|
On all but one of the T13 heroic fights 25man guilds as a whole have killed these bosses more then 10man guilds. I do think that the 10man percentages are depressed a little due to the fact that "casual" raiders are more likely to raid 10mans and therefore inflate the total number of 10man guilds bringing down their percentage. However, that can't explain away all of the differences. Hagara is clearly easier on 25man with a 26.25% kill rate in 25man guilds compared to just 6.43% among 10man guilds. On the flip side Ultraxion is clearly easier in the 10man format and I would argue that Yor'sahj is probably easier on 10man as well.
Obviously Blizzards balancing hasn't been perfect when comparing 10man to 25man, but it doesn't appear to be benefiting one format over another in a significant way, and if it is it's benefiting 25man guilds. Clearly, poor balancing is not the cause of 25man's decline.
In my opinion 25man's decline is primarily due to a lack of significant rewards to make up for the 10mans organizational advantages. Yes, 25mans do have a small loot advantage, but that really isn't that significant. Here we are two months into the patch and my guild is already sharding some gear on heroic. Additional gear isn't much of a motivator because if you raid for an entire patch you are likely to get almost everything you want from the bosses you kill regularly. Additional, Valor points are an even bigger joke since they've taken Tier gear out of the Valor system making the Valor points almost valueless in terms of raiding.
Since the only real reason to continue to raid 25mans over 10mans currently is personal preference, it is clear that 25mans are going to continue to decline because of 10mans organizational advantages.
Can it be Fixed:
To honest, I would be entirely OK if Blizzard came out and said that they were eliminating 10man raids for MoP, but there isn't a snowball's chance in hell of that happening (as much as I would like it), so I hope they are looking for other solutions.
Unfortunately, I don't have a lot of good ideas in this regard. I still like the suggestion I made two years ago to have gems and other raiding mats drop almost exclusively from 25man raids. After a year of Cata 25man raiding I think there are a couple of "easy" changes that think could make 25s more attractive.
- Better Rare Mount Drops: It's funny. If you kill heroic Rag on 10man you have a 100% drop chance to get one [Smoldering Egg of Millagazor]. If you kill heroic Rag on 25man you still have a 100% drop chance to get one [Smoldering Egg of Millagazor]. I don't care how they do it but this should be balanced.
- More Epic Gems: When I suggested two years ago that 25mans should be the only source of epic gems, many of you disagreed, and I can understand why. That said, I don't see a problem with 25man kills dropping more Motes of Darkness and Essence of Corrupted Deathwing. Why not give 25man kills two of each instead of just one?
- Free Flasks & Free Food: The organizational difficulties of 25man raids largely falls on the leaders of the raid. In an effort to reduce the organizational pressure on a 25man raid's leaders they could provide free food and flasks that only work in 25man raids. If the raid leaders didn't need to coordinate Cauldrons or Feasts they may be more willing to deal with the other organization issues of the 25man format.
When Blizzard announced that they were going to have 10mans and 25mans drop the same level of gear, many people (including myself) predicted this would result in the slow death of the 25man format. Unfortunately, that prediction is coming true. 25man kills as a percentage of total kills has declined with each new tier in this expansion.
The cause of this decline does not appear to be due to balancing issues, but seems to rest solely on the fact that 10mans are easier to organize especially when they are created out of the ashes of a dead 25man guild. To counter the 10man's advantage, Blizzard needs to find a way to reward 25man raiders and their leaders that doesn't give the 25man format an unfair advantage. The best solution would be one that would reduce the organizational requirements of a 25man raid like eliminating the need for cauldrons or feasts in the 25man format.