Update February 23, 2017: Blizzard want to shift away from the idea of there being a finish line in WoW raids, because the game just wasn’t built to support high level raiding as it exists today. This was said during tonight’s Legion 7.2 livestream, in which Blizzard addressed some big mythic guilds throwing in the towel.
“Running a mythic raiding guild is really hard,” explains game director Ion Hazzikostas. “It’s an incredible drain on your time, it’s an emotional drain, and guilds have risen and fallen throughout the history of World of Warcraft.”
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Big guilds have dropped in the past, and new ones have always risen up and taken their place. When a big guild disbands, it’s not always all the members hanging up their wizard hats - it’s the people in charge. So, collectively, it’s not 30-40 people all saying the game has got too much for them. It’s just the bosses.
These guild leaders all eventually meet a point where their personal lives take over, or they react to a change Blizzard have made. It’s just not something people can do forever. The lower ranking members of the guild will then splinter off and join younger, hungrier guilds who still have an appetite for this sort of high-level raiding.
While this is a natural part of the game, Blizzard aren’t saying there’s no issue with how high level raiding is currently in 7.2. The grind is something they’re trying to address. This specific issue isn’t just felt by the top raiders, it’s been reported by players across the board, so tweaks will be coming.
However, Hazzikostas says the game isn’t really built to be played 80 hours a week. At one point, Blizzard even considered putting limits in place, as each new raid became this arms race grind, where players would put in 23 hours in just a few days to become world firsts. Still, players just kept at it, switching to alt raids when met with a wall. Essentially, WoW just wasn’t built to be played this way. It might be pretty big in the eSports world now, but that was never really the intention.
Check out the livestream here.
Update February 14, 2017: Blizzard have responded to concerns about the next WoW patch increasing the grind of high-level raiding, saying the values people have seen won't represent the actual patch.
"The 7.2 Artifact Knowledge and Artifact Power curves that have been datamined are not final - what you're seeing is just temporary values," explains a Blizzard community manager on Battle.net.
Essentially, these temporary values show Artifact Knowledge scaling linearly, while in the full fat patch the Artifact Power required to purchase the special traits increases exponentially.
In short, it shouldn't take more effort than it has in the past. The PTR also won't be representative, though the build being released next week should give players a better idea of the numbers.
Whether this means the top guilds will reconsider or not is another matter entirely - it's still a lot of work for very little reward. Here's another post from Blizzard breaking down how the patch will alter the grinding mechanics.
Original Story February 14, 2017: It seems the gruelling demands of competitive World of Warcraft raiding have taken their toll on two of the game's foremost guilds, with both Midwinter and FromScratch announcing plans to either retire or step back from the scene ahead of the next patch.
World of Warcraft's hardest PvE challenge right now is the Nighthold raid on Mythic difficulty, which was finally bested by Exorsus the weekend before last. According to WoWTrack at time of writing, three other guilds have managed to follow them. FromScratch are the most recent to do so, and Midwinter are among the eleven that are stuck on Gul'Dan, the final boss.
And yet, despite being among the top tier of raiding guilds, both are stepping back from the scene.
Midwinter made the announcement on their website, with guild leader Kaowa saying they "will be taking an indefinite break from progression raiding". After they bagged the world-fourth Nighthold mythic clear, FromScratch posted the following tweet:
We're going for more casual goal for Tomb of Sargeras. Not excluding going back to the race in the future but now we just wanna njoy playing— From Scratch (@FromScratchWoW) February 13, 2017
Why the sudden retirements? The line “we just wanna enjoy playing” is telling: as Ben found in his in-depth look at what it takes to be competitive in WoW’s gruelling high-end raiding scene, top raiders can expect to commit up to 14 hours a day when the raid is live and competition at its hottest. Guilds who are serious about the race to beat a raid can commit almost 2,000 man-hours every single week.
Then there's the grind to even equip yourself to compete. Here's Justwait, a hardcore raider with Method (who got the world-third clear on Nighthold mythic), breaking down what looms for high-end raiders in the next patch, 7.2, which will add the Tomb of Sargeras raid:
That figure of 4,035,766,330 is how much AP a main character will need to earn the traits necessary to compete in the next world first race, while 'MoS' refers to Maw of Souls, a dungeon that is the most efficient way to farm AP. Assuming each run through MoS takes about seven minutes, and your main had the current max of 54 AP traits before 7.2, those 992 runs equate to 6,944 minutes, or just shy of 116 hours. Those numbers could change before the next patch, and for the sake of players' health and sanity, I really hope they do.
For the most part, these guys aren’t pros; there’s much less money in high-end WoW than in fully-fledged PvP eSports, such as League of Legends, Dota 2, CS:GO and so on. Income from sponsorships, streaming and support from Blizzard themselves are all limited, for various reasons, meaning competitive raiding is mostly about the glory. Method are an exception to the rule, having built up a brand and expanded into other PvP games.
But that's not an option for guilds at Midwinter's level, which raises the question of how much longer they can continue without much better incentives.