Selynida emailed me the following regarding 10s and 25s:
I had written this comment to your blog, and unfortunately I seem to have vastly passed the character limit... however I still wanted to provide it.
One thing that is often missed is looking at history, players flock to whatever provides the most efficient access to powerful epics. Look at raid/PVP history through the expansions:
Pre-TBC, Pre patch 2.0, players primarily raided to obtain the best possible gear. There was no alternative at the highest end (Naxx/AQ 40) and the PVP gear required an even larger time commitment due to the original honor system.
Patch 2.0 pre TBC, players flocked to Battlegrounds, because the dynamic had shifted. It was now possible to completely circumvent the first several tiers of raiding (ZG, AQ 20, MC and BWL) simply by doing battle grounds and obtaining gear at a much more efficient route. Guilds that had touted themselves as raiding guilds ended up collapsing and/or simply running PVP pre mades to quickly stomp randomly assembled pugs to get the gear and marks as quickly as possible. Yet, even this is a bit of poor view, as most of these pre mades never wanted to face another pre made, and actively sent scouts into the BGs ahead of the group specifically to see if they would have to put in effort. This behavior persisted until TBC came out and provided a gear reset making most of the gear negligible.
Post TBC, Arena Season 1 and Season 2, even with a new 10 man introduced, heroics, and new raid encounters, the Arena was played by almost everyone, PVE and PVP player alike as there was no requirements to obtain the gear. You could lose every game a week, and get gear that equaled or surpassed the current raid tier. At the same time, the raid tier was restrictive both due to the initial tuned level of the encounters, attunement chains requiring guilds to go out of their way to make it so members could even attend the raids (SSC and TK attunements), and under-itemized initial raiding gear from the first tier of raiding. Dancing for Points was born here. This persisted until a combination of raid gear was re-itemized, attunements were lifted and removed, encounters were retuned and Arena began requiring person ratings to acquire the best items.
Late TBC, pre patch 3.0, Badge of Justice drops from Karazhan were introduced and were able to provide gear of the equivalent from the highest tier raid that existed at the time (Sunwell Plateau). At this time, players began flocking to Karazhan and farming it extensively on characters of all gear levels, as well as doing the, now trivialized through gear creep, heroic five man instances in order to obtain gear that was on par with the best in the game. Karazhan became “The most popular raid of all time” not because it was the most fun, the dynamics of only requiring 10 people, or because of the gear that drops, but simply due to the high Badge of Justice/Time ratio. Unrealistic requirements were set by the vast majority of guilds resulting in a harder time to break into raiding, despite so much better gear being made available through it; all for the sake of plowing through the trivial content faster.
Mid TBC, Early seasons of arena gear provided through Honor resulted in Battlegrounds again receiving a surge in popularity. However, it wasn’t just the vast number of people playing so many Battlegrounds; it also was a large number of other issues associated with it. While it was providing gear that was a little behind the curve, it was being done at a much faster rate and with much less effort. Also, it rewarded mere attendance in some battlegrounds, and not actual participation resulting in many of the AFK Botting issues that have seen so many issues. Players didn’t want to actually participate, they simply wanted the rewards.
Late TBC, Post patch 3.0, boss ‘re-tuning’ and the removal of all attunements resulted in an explosion of guilds and raids going at least 4/5 in Mount Hyjal and also getting several bosses in Black Temple down. This combined with the still best Badge/Time ratio that Karazhan offered resulted in an incredibly fast gear up time from PVE. It was a similar situation as the end of Vanilla, after Patch 2.0, except instead of flooding Battlegrounds, guilds instead flooded the now substantially easier PVE content.
Early WoTLK, Early raid content was again tuned on the same level as post patch 3.0 TBC bosses were resulting in a much lower entry level for getting into raiding than ever before. Between the additions of easy to obtain epics at a much faster rate than other avenues 10 and 25 raids began to flourish. All content was regularly cleared by a majority of guilds with the exceptions of achievement kills (Sartharion with additional Drakes, 6 Minute Malygos, etc). Since the quality of gear from the 25 man raids were so much better than anything else available, many players who only wanted to PVP went to the PVE game simply to obtain certain weapons (Betrayer of Humanity, Envoy of Mortality, Turning Tide, etc) to actually do the activities they wanted to.
Early WoTLK, Vault is added. This happened concurrently with the previous point; however, a special note should be added to Vault. Vault provided a substantially easier way to obtain many pieces of gear, both PVE and PVP at a fraction of the time. It was substantially easier than the actual content of the level (with the potential exception of Emalon; though this was rectified with Koralon and Toravon so much lower tuned). Each season Vault was updated to provide gear, and with the short hiccup that was Emalon the bosses remained trivial compared to the actual raid encounters of the actual tier. This provided a fast easy way to obtain easy epics of the highest level in a fraction of the time. I would honestly like to see the stats on number of times Vault has been run. I suspect that it has far eclipsed Karazhan as the "Most popular raid of all time."
Late WoTLK, Badge of Triumphs and the Random Dungeon Finder were added to make 5 man encounters substantially more enjoyable. By adding Frost Badges into the mix once a day, it even encouraged more people to be in the system. This was again touted as a huge success (And comparatively speaking, it was) but for the wrong reasons. The vast majority in the system weren’t running the heroics because they enjoyed running heroics or doing dungeons, but they were doing it because it was simply the most efficient way to obtain easy gear. It was faster and more efficient to run heroics through the queue system of the Random Dungeon Finder than it was to run any previous level of content.
Throughout the history of this game, players flock to the easiest ways to get high quality loot. It doesn’t matter if that way is PVE or PVP centric, players will go to the highest quality for the lowest effort. Currently 25 (Or at least early Tier 10 content in 25s) is the highest quality for the lowest effort, with so many bosses killable by a majority of guilds all rewarding close to the best loot in the game. When Cataclysm is released, the best loot will be equally rewarded from 10 or 25 man content. However, even if it is just a logistical issue of not having as many to compete with as many people and needing less people to form a successful raid, the 10s will flourish; and it will be touted as a success of the system, similar to Arena Season two, and the RDF systems were, but it will be claimed as such because of how “Fun” it is.
Pretty much everything Selynida has written is true. However, one crucial aspect may have been missed. People always flock to the the easiest ways to get the higher quality loot. However, there is a question of whether they do this in addition to their preferred activities, or instead of those activities.
In the past, people have always done their regular activities. When PvP was the fastest way to loot, people still did large raids. They PvP'd as well for gear, but they didn't give up raiding.
That's the real key, I think. This is pretty much the first time in WoW that activities will become mutually exclusive. So events may play out in unforseen ways.