So, Carpe Jugulum had nearly all of its new recruits bail on us. This leaves us in a fragile position, as to sustain the raid group we need to recruit. Thats actually pretty hard for us in World of Warcraft for a few reasons. I saw a nice slide show on social mechanics in multiplayer games this week, which helps explain this. If you take a look at Slide 126, the rich get richer, i.e. new players connect to the most popular group.
Two obvious sources of recruits for us (1) existing players, and (2) new players. I’ll look at group one first.
The problem with existing players is that its quite expensive to switch servers or faction. Each transaction costs US$ 25. If you have a family of characters, you could spend as much as US$ 500 on swapping servers and factions to play with people. You could keep the transfer to one character, but the loss of access to the skills of the other characters makes you considerably poorer in game. Some people are also attaced to their faction, and simply cannot entertain the thought of betraying it.
Its not unreasonable to switch for a specific guild that can offer you something, but as CJ is a casual 2 night a week raiding guild, our progression is only 1/3 at the moment. That means there are many other guilds out there that can offer better virtual pixel rewards than we can, as well as direct entry into all of the challenging game content. We’ll get there, but in a couple of months, not a couple of weeks. Rerolling a character is possible, but you would be looking at 200+ hours to be raid ready.
The problem with new players is that WoW is a mature game. While there may be 12 million subscribers, its not like its getting a million new subscribers every month. One way I see this in game is that when I use the random dungeon group finder, nearly everyone in the group has heirloom items equipped – whch signals that they already have one or more level capped characters, and have the desire to twink up their alts. So there are not many new players, and naturally not many of them are New Zealanders. Compounding the kiwi shortage, is that our old server is classed as high population (to discourage new players) and is a US server, not an oceanic server. So the number of fresh New Zealand players on our server is pretty close to zero.
A structural change has also occurred with WoW. In classic WoW, even at low levels you had to group with other players in order to complete many quests. The revamped WoW no longer requires this. Levelling a character is very easy … its almost impossible to fail if you follow the readcrumb quests. Little is hidden from you, so there is no need to ask for even exploration help. The dungeon finder tool is cross-server, so you no longer form relationships with people outside your guild. You use the tool, group with some strangers, then wave goodbye knowing you’ll never see them again. At any rate, its now much harder to meet people in-game, which is not all that great for a social MMO game. It works okay for the established player base, but a new MMO would need to use different tools, like the public questing in RIFT.
So while natural recruitment is hard, it sometimes happens that people you already know might be keen. I think my wider social group falls into three main categories:
(A) Those who have never played WoW and never will
(B) Those who have played WoW and never will again
(C) Those who are playing WoW and are pretty happy with their current situation.
So I’m not really holding out great hopes there, but it might happen. I can see, however, that the long-term prospects for my Horde guild are limited. The loss of even one more member of the existing team would cause us to stop raiding. At which point the guild is likely to start fading in numbers. I think about half the guild would stop playing altogether. A few might transfer to other guilds, but again that would be a server/faction change … it would cost me about $250 dollars to do that, which is a lot just to keep playing a computer game. I floated the idea of trying RIFT, but no one else in the guild was keen. So I can see a day in the future when Azeroth will no longer fill all my waking hours.