It's that time of the year where guilds slowly begin to fold. I'm talking about the exodus of players that occurs a few months before the launch of a new expansion.
Last night I heard that one of the better progression guilds in the server are more or less closing shop. No one is disbanding, but as the number of consistent raiders slowly decline, raid teams begin to shut down one by one until even the best guilds have trouble finding 10 people to push progression.
I joined the game in wrath and back when ICC was first released, there were definitely more hardcore progression guilds. Off the top of my head I can count maybe 10 or so guilds who were pushing heroic modes in ICC at a much faster pace than the rest of the server. About half of them was horde, and the server first guild also happens to be a US-top 20 guild.
Then came the waves of nerfs to ICC and more people were clearing heroics. Finally there came a point where everyone was doing at least half of the heroic modes and the best guilds on the server only had heroic LK standing between them and a full clear (with the exception of our server first - they were the only ones to down heroic LK pre-cata).
And then you saw the best guilds fold, one by one, as raiders got bored and frustrated. Some of them bled people left and right until raids were no longer sustainable, some of them collapsed overnight when the GM server-hopped. Some struggled till the end to recruit with no avail.
My guild was no exception to this. First came the disbanding of 25 man raids. Some people left while some continued on with 10 man raiding. We made it through till the end, finally downing 25 man LK before cata hit. That was a big moment for us, and I think our guild fared much better than others in that we retained most of our people in the transition from wrath to cata.
Then came cata and with it came the permanent disbanding of 25 man raids. I think many of the folks who had been around since BC and pre-BC were burnt out. Attendance problems and unforseen absences got the better of everyone and so raids came to a halt. But within a month or so 10 mans began to pick up and during firelands, the guild was a lot more like what I had remembered from wrath - we had a surplus roster and people actually had to be rotated out! Everyone was excited and eager and we pushed hardmodes with zeal.
And now, a few weeks into dragon soul, we are again having trouble filling a 10 man group. Two of our longest-residing members have left. One had quit the raiding scene a month ago, and now has decided to quit the game. Another had been sporadic about attendance ever since we completed her legendary, and now has faction transferred. I don't know how the rest of the guild took it, but their departure was a shock to me.
This kind of problem seems to be server-wide, as longtime members take temporary or permanent breaks and everyone is falling short on their attendance rosters. Many people, having cleared DS normal, want to take a break until the next expansion. Some have quit the game for good (or so they say) in favor of new MMOs such as SWOTR. Some have just simply burned out, or have new RL commitments and can't raid anymore.
The first group of people are to be expected - it is what inevitably happens during the long lull between the end of an expansion and the start of a new one. The second happened to come at a bad time. It just so happened that a direct competitor to WoW (and pretty much a sci-fi clone, might I add) would launch at a time when WoW's gamer base is bored and looking for something new. The third, well, that is a small minority and there is nothing that can be done about RL problems.
So where do we go from here?
I hope we can stick it out. Recruiting is difficult, but at the least I hope we don't lose any more people than we have already. I hope we can bump up some of the non-raiders in our guild to raider status permanently. I hope that the experienced raiders who want hardmodes can learn to live with a slower pace of progression - we might just have to wait for nerfs at this point. I hope that things do pick up when MoP drops. I, for one, would at least like to give MoP raiding a try before deciding that pandas was a childish idea. Maybe it will be, fun, I don't know.
Things look grim at the moment, but I have faith. I have faith that the people who are currently sustaining our rosters are not the type of people to suddenly up and quit. I think we'll make it. We just need patience to ride out this rough patch.