Monday, January 15, 2007

Casuals vs. Raiders, Part VI

If you take a look back at previous posts, I think one trend you will find is that whenever casuals and raiders clash, I tend to take the side of the casual player. And this might seem a little odd. After all, I am a raider myself. Why then do I side with the casual player?

Firstly, I do so because I like this game, and I have fun, and I would like everyone to have as much fun as I have. I love raiding, and I would love to see more people discover what a thrill killing a raid boss for the first time is.

But secondly, and more importantly, in a lot of ways casuals are more important to this game than raiders are. There is an attitude among many raiders that they are the "chosen of Blizzard." Because they play so much, and have so much invested in this game, they feel that raiders are more deserving of Blizzard's time and attention. Any casually complaints are worthless, "QQ more" as the forum post goes.

I think this attitude is arrogant and completely wrong. The deep truth of WoW is that:

Blizzard makes more money from casuals than raiders.

Casuals outnumber raiders by a significant margin. Yet both a casual player and a raider pay the same amount of money per month. Casuals play far less than raiders, eating up much less processing power and server resources. They file far fewer customer service tickets. And most importantly, they go through content at a far slower rate.

Raiders devour content, and content creation is expensive. The extremely large casual population of WoW ensures that Blizzard has the resources to satisfy the hunger of raiders. Leaving aside all other considerations of fairness and decency, it is in the raider's best interest to keep casuals in the game because casuals subsidize raid content.

Of course, given the above, the obvious question is why should Blizzard cater to the raiders at all? If all the money comes from the casuals, why not let the raiders go and just reap the profit?

I think this option is just as misguided as the other side. Raiders, although they are fewer in number, also have their uses. They serve as aspirational models, something that lower level players can strive towards. If you've ever seen what General chat is like when someone walks by with a Legendary weapon, you understand the effect it has.

As well, raiders are sort of like very unpredictable NPCs. They do the crazy stuff, like training dragons to Orgrimmar, organizing epic 40 paladin vs 40 shaman battles, and other similar silliness. They also tend to be the most enthusiastic about the game, answering questions on the forums and making websites, blogs, and videos about the game. They create buzz and word-of-mouth to get new people interested. They're the ones constantly running the dungeons and forming groups which casuals can join.

In a lot of ways, raiders and the hardcore tend to be at the center of the web of relationships that bind an MMO together. I think without raiders, WoW would feel a lot more empty, and a lot more like a single player game than an MMO. And without that feel to it, I think that the game would soon wither as the casuals drop away.

Without casuals, Blizzard makes a lot less money, and the game will begin to suffer from lack of content. Casuals in many ways also provide the "audience" for the raiders, just as raiders provide the spectacle for the casuals. Raiders and the hardcore provide the enthusiasm and bind the players together. Both are necessary for a truely successful game.

However, in the WoW 1.0 endgame, Blizzard catered too much toward the raiders. In particular, casuals found their progression blocked by the introduction of 40-man dungeons, and that caused a lot of animosity. The truth is that if you are in Molten Core and Blackwing Lair, you don't care if Blizzard makes Naxxramas. You are on the path to Naxx, and eventually you will get there. On the other hand, if--like the majority of the WoW population--you can't even get into Molten Core, seeing Blizzard spend enormous amounts of time and money on a raid dungeon like Naxxramas is a slap in the face.

Hopefully, the Burning Crusade will rebalance things a little better and both casuals and raiders can enjoy the endgame.


  1. From the looks of things, Blizzard has done quite a lot to rectify the end game gap of casuals vs hardcore with the introduction of heroic 5 mans and lowering the cap on the 70 raid instances to 25 from 40. From my quick comparison of Dungeon set 3 to Tier 4 when Thottbot beta database was collecting info, there isn't that much of a gear-gap between the heroic 5 man rewards and the raid armor. In addition, the difference between tier 4 and tier 5 isn't that large either. It's all incremental upgrades, as opposed to the leaps and bounds upgrades from Lawbringer to Judgement, or Judgement to Redemption. That's just gear, however (and only paladin gear. I didn't take a look at other classes). The sheer scaling down of group size will be enough to allow "casuals" to experience the toughest content on a wider scale. Heroic 5 mans and more 10 mans means smaller guilds, groups of friends, and even random PUGs can just pick up and run end-game (not sure about their success rate as the difficulty has yet to be gauged, but they can still enter and have a full group). It'll be interesting, however it turns out. I can't wait to see how it all unfolds.
    Baelor the Blessed
    Runetotem server

  2. A bit late with the comment I know, but I love the series and have just finished reading them all.

    I have so much to say about casuals vs raiders that I posted it on it the other day, here