Procrastination Amplification: Punditry on MMOs and games in general.

WoW Raiding Really Is Accessible

So Tesh says “only some can do it” in regards to raiding and Keen claims that World of Warcraft raids “are deceptively not accessible to the population since something like 5% ever even finish one”. Let’s look at some numbers here, shall we?

For the sake of focusing on one argument at the time I’ll accept it as a given that you need to be at the maximum level to raid in World of Warcraft. I’m not saying that that is a good thing, just something for another post. Now, kindly provides us with percentages of kills for each raid boss in WoW. These percentages, as far as I understand it, are based on the number of active raiding guilds that have killed a certain boss.

74.21% of those guilds have killed the next-to-last boss in the current entry-level instance Blackwing Descent and 54.32% the final boss in The Bastion of Twilight. Going back to the previous expansion Wrath of the Lich King, which introduced the whole accessibility concept, 89.15% of listed guilds killed Anub’arak, the Final boss in the next-to-last raid of the expansion in 25 men mode and a whopping 96.28% in 10 men mode.

A respectable 57.49% of active guilds even killed the Lich King, the final boss of the whole expansion in 10 men mode. What these numbers tell us is that raiding is very much accessible if you are in any kind of raiding guild, period. If you don’t manage to raid in WoW, you clearly aren’t in any form of raiding guild.

So how can raiding still be called inaccessible? I can’t imagine that people find it hard to get into a raiding guild. Sure, the top guilds on a server usually have strict barriers to entry, but you don’t need to be in those guilds to raid, not even to beat all the (normal mode) content available. Pretty much any guild will do and there are plenty of guilds around that have next to no barriers to entry.

Looking at my own WoW server, the top 42 guilds have killed all normal mode Cataclysm bosses, and you have to go down all the way to the 121st spot in the Wrath of The Lich King ratings to find a guild that hasn’t killed the Lich King at least in 10 men mode. Spot 186 is where you find the first guild that did not manage to kill Anub’arak in 10 men mode.

So where does this idea of inaccessibility come from? Sure, raiding takes a certain amount of time and if you don’t have that time then you can’t raid, but surely that isn’t accessibility? Learning Spanish is not inaccessible at all; I simply don’t have the time / don’t care enough about it to invest the time to learn it. Seeing the end of Dragon Age: Origins takes about forty hours, what if I simply didn’t have that time to spare between kids, sports, and other games? Does that make the game inaccessible? Should I call for a nerf and a speed button that removes all fights so I can just see the content?

I can absolutely see the problems of players with commitments to actual go out and raid. If you have a small child you can’t just commit to two or three hours of game play without possible interruptions. Sure, that sucks – but neither can you go to the movies during the same time. Are movies too inaccessible and need to be nerfed?

Two friends I regularly play Rift with have a little child and all sorts of other obligations. We still manage to do dungeon runs in fixed groups, often a couple of times a week. Now, these are five men dungeons, but with a casual attitude (and a larger circle of friends) it would be no issue at all to do small raids either. You just have to play with a group of people that are willing to accept your limitations (and are willing to wipe if the child needs attention.)

Attentive readers may note that I am not at all happy with the accessibility approach taken in modern World of Warcraft, but that is not because it fails to make content accessible. I don’t like it, but Blizzard did a very good job achieving accessibility in my eyes.

Maybe someone can enlighten me what exactly makes World of Warcraft raids inaccessible. I don’t see it at all.


  • Looking at percentage of guilds is misleading; look at the absolute number of guilds and the sizes of their raiding team. Remember, the progress tracking sites don’t include guilds that have downed no current tier raid boss (ignoring the BH boss) when computing percentages for that tier.

    Consider that many of those guilds in WotLK were doing 25 man content, so had at least 25 raiders. The average number of raiders per raiding guild has likely declined in Cataclysm as most people have shifted to 10 man raids (out of necessity, even if they wanted their guild to do 25 man).

    Pointing to how many people downed LK as evidence that raiding in Cataclysm is accessible seems ridiculous to me, btw. Anyway, even in WotLK, only 20% of 25 man raiding guilds downed LK 25 on normal mode before 4.0. So arguably even WotLK raid content was beyond the capability of most raiders to finish (10 man LK done with 25 man ICC gear and the 30% buff would be just a TAD easier than any Cata raid, don’t you think?)

  • Thanks for the detailed comment.

    Looking at the percentages of raiding guilds accomplishes exactly what I claimed it does: Tell you that being in a raiding guild means you have a very good shot at actually finishing raids. I then went on to say that it seems unlikely that people are actually unable to get into a raiding guild. Not a top level one, sure, but the numbers show that even the worst raiding guilds tend to get access to quite a bit of content.

    Is LK 10 in 25 man ICC gear relatively easy? Sure. Does the 30% buff make him even easier? Sure. That means he is accessible. If more than half of all guilds with raid ambitions managed to kill him and getting into such a guild is trivial, then more people who actually wanted to got a shot at killing the Lich King than not.

    I cannot speak directly to Cataclysm because I don’t play the game anymore, but the numbers look very similar and I have yet to hear about any substantial changes to the accessibility of raids from WotLK to Cataclysm.

  • So, if a million people raided in one expansion, but only 100,000 in another (these are not the actual numbers, mind you), but the percentage of raiding guilds that cleared content were the same, would you say those two expansion had equally accessible raid content? That would be obviously absurd. You have to look at percentages of the player population that have downed bosses, not limit yourself to the variable subpopulation that has managed to start making progress.

    Cataclysm raiding is less accessible because the small, low skill, ultracasual 10 man groups from WotLK, who had fun in Naxx, had no chance in T11. If they even managed to get past heroic 5 mans, they tried the new raids for a while then gave up. The good players, if any, and if they wanted to progress, left and segregated themselves into a smaller set of guilds that had standards high enough to handle the raids.

  • We can’t possibly look at the total percentage of players/guilds when looking at accessibility because those numbers wouldn’t mean anything. (We have no idea what percentage of players chooses not to raid.) A comparison would be feasible though, if the claim is that raids have become less accessible with Cataclysm than they were in WotLK. (Which is not what people were claiming and not something I can dispute really, not having played Cata.)

    Getting an appropriate measure to compare is difficult though. 56189 guilds have killed Magmaw (10) so far while 84136 killed Lord Marrowgar (10). The latter number is higher, but it was also over a longer timeframe and time surely matters here (due to nerfs, learning, and gearing up). While there might be a difference here, it doesn’t seem to be very large all things considered. That would mean that T11 entry level is about as accessible as T10 was. T9 has virtually identical numbers to T10, meaning that T10 wasn’t really less accessible and makes for a decent point of comparison. T7 & 8 are sadly not really available on wowprogress.

    I suppose that there is no equivalent (yet) of the small, ultracasual, dressed in full T9/10 badge loot group overgearing their way through Naxx because Cata doesn’t have that many tiers of content yet. I suppose those players don’t currently have access to raids but they were also not included in the numbers above. I suppose you are right insofar that guilds that try to raid and really want to raid but don’t manage to kill a single boss don’t show up in the statistics. I have a hard time believing that many of those are around though.

    But let’s try to guess at a population percentage. My old server has 10k lvl 85 characters on it. The average top 50 points guild has 50 lvl 85 member characters (give or take, random sampling from warcraftrealms) let’s cut that in half for a guesstimate at average raiding-interested guild size. There are 147 guilds on the server that have killed at least one boss in T11, more than a third of the server’s total population. Keep in mind that this includes all the people who simply don’t want to raid or can’t make the time for it. Also keep in mind that Cata is relatively young and this number will only increase with time and nerfs.

    (I am aware that the numbers above include a lot of guesswork and are likely not very accurate. Without better numbers, there’s not much else I can use for comparison though.)

  • Thanks for the link and comment over at my place. It might be worth noting that there are some pretty big “if” statements in my article.

    Let’s take it in another theoretical direction with another few “ifs”: If raids are the backbone of the game, why not make them available at all levels? Why are they an endgame activity? If the story of WoW is so important, why stick it in the most constrained activity? Sure, maybe raiding isn’t only for the elite 1% any more, but it’s still not something everyone can do.

    …again, those are big “if” statements. They need not be accepted as the actual Blizzard goals. I’m just chasing thoughts, and I don’t really believe that Blizzard *actually* cares about offering content, tourism or making the game all-inclusive. They might make some sounds that intimate such, but in practice, they can’t change their ship of state that much without breaking the game and the community.

    …while we’re talking numbers, though, wouldn’t it be more useful to look at how many *players* have raid achievements, rather than guilds? Seems to me that guild hopping isn’t unheard of, and it’s not guaranteed that everyone in a guild has actually been a part of any given raid.
    Tesh´s last blog post ..Raiding for the Masses

  • @scrusi: “Looking at the percentages of raiding guilds accomplishes exactly what I claimed it does: Tell you that being in a raiding guild means you have a very good shot at actually finishing raids.”

    So then what is accessibility of being in a raiding guild in WoW?

  • Tesh, I’ll happily link to you anyday. I have a couple of ideas as to why raids aren’t (note that I didn’t say can’t be) used during the levelling stage. I’ll post about that soon I think.

    Player numbers would be good, but we can’t really access them. Character numbers might be a bit easier to obtain (though I don’t know where) but those are much less useful. Guild numbers are far from perfect, but they are the best thing I have access to.

    Andrei, in my experience getting into any raiding guild is rather trivial. I knew a variety of guilds that either took all comers or looked for some non skill-related criterion.
    scrusi´s last blog post ..Quote of the Day