How Important Is Raiding In MMOs?
Over the last decade the mmorpg genre has shot up from a minor genre to one of the most popular types of games in existence in terms of numbers, right up next to FPS games and MOBA titles like League of Legends. This skyrocketing success has largely been attributed to World of Warcraft, which shot up from 4 million users in its first year to an eventual cap of 12 million users around five years later. Even though the market has now been flooded with similar games, from The Old Republic to Guild Wars 2, WoW still retains just under 9 million active users eight years later.
But how much of World of Warcraft’s success, and the success of any MMORPG be attributed to the “endgame” of the title – and how much to the levelling experience or other social features which turn an RPG into a fully fledged MMO. For World of Warcraft, the initial appeal was double. First it had taken a lot of the features which existed in earlier MMOs like Everquest and simplified them, making levelling up and questing simpler and more accessible to the general market. Secondly, once you did reach it’s endgame, the difficulty was tiered to encourage progression over time and the necessity for solid guild groups and large scale organization in order to defeat it.
At the time I was positive that the appeal to WoW was the overall desire to keep playing and bettering your character for raiding. Half a decade later, although I still enjoy raiding, time has shown that roughly 10% of World of Warcrafts population raid actively – and only about 1% do the “heroic mode” difficulty content, which is as “endgame” as it gets. In comparison Guild Wars 2, which came out last year, has no real endgame to speak of – aside from high level PvP and some difficult 5 player content. However, due to its level scale-down system, players can actively quest and do activities in any zone in the game without feeling like they have plateaued in their progress.
So which is the right answer? Do you make your game a fun and social environment where there isn't a measuring stick to mark your progress on or do you include a wealth of endgame which ultimately only a small amount of your playerbase will see?
Well the answer is that we don't know. Games like Guild Wars 2 simply don't have the longevity of older titles like WoW, so even though they may be popular now their endgame system is unproven (although since Guild Wars 2 doesn’t have a subscription one could argue any endgame at all is needless, but this is a different topic altogether). On the other hand, you can also debunk WoW’s popularity by arguing that since it's quite a dated title, people are used to raiding and will continue to do so because its comfortable. Whether this would work in a newer title is questionable, especially after The Old Republic floundered after basically ripping off the endgame system from World of Warcraft.
Upcoming MMOs currently split over this decision, and it will be interesting to mark their progress. On the horizon Wildstar is planning to include raiding, as well as weekly raid goals to keep progression interesting, on the other hand The Elder Scrolls Online is planning on having an open PVP environment instead of any raiding progression – so we will have to take our mark from them as they progress.
Still, it should be interesting and beneficial for gamers as the genre continues to split – competition breeds innovation and all that. Mainly I’m happy people are still trying to make this whole MMORPG thing work, even after big companies like Bioware have missed the mark.
Will there ever be a successor to the World of Warcraft throne? Time will tell.