I leveled my mage up from 51 to 52 last night by soloing Jinth'Alor. On the one side that was fun, and only the Vile Priestess Hexx posed any problems (she has an instant spell that turns you into a frog, and just kept me permanently frogged while she killed me, I got her on the second try by using my water elemental). On the other side it was sad to see the closest thing World of Warcraft had to a non-instanced dungeon turned into a solo encounter. I barely ever got the opportunity to group in my whole mage career, and seen only very few dungeons. I think I only did one regular dungeon group with people around my level, the other runs were all "boosted" by higher levels. I recently even boosted some low level guild mates myself through RFC. My warrior recently helped a warlock get to the place in Scholomance where he needed to go for his warlock epic mount quest, and the warlock didn't even know where Scholomance was!
If you look through PC games sales charts, you'll find that World of Warcraft has been consistently been in the top 20 since end of 2004. Some financial analyst calculated WoW's churn rate to be 4% to 5% per month. That is nearly half a million new players in WoW every month, or over 200,000 in the US and Europe! And I can't help but feel that these new players are not playing the same World of Warcraft that we played back in 2004 / 2005. They are playing a massively singleplayer game, WoW Lite, which has them soloing all the up to at least 60, if not 70, before being able to find groups. And then of course the groups suck, because the warrior is fury spec and never bothered to even put taunt on his hotkey bar, and the priest is shadow and hasn't got a clue about effective healing. Not their fault, how are they supposed to suddenly know all about grouping if they never had the opportunity?
World of Warcraft as a singleplayer game isn't actually a bad game. But between servers that are sometimes down, lag, and monthly fees, players must ask themselves why they are playing a game online when there is so little interaction with other players. The multiplayer aspects of MMORPGs are generally more interesting, and more likely to keep players in the game. The attraction of WoW to new players is likely to diminish. When Wrath of the Lich King and Warhammer Online come out, presumably not far from each other, new players have the choice between one game where they will have to solo now to 80 before they can group, and another game where they can play with lots of players of their level. That won't be the only criterion of choice, but it sure can be an important one. Cooperative multiplayer games are more fun than singleplayer games, because they add all the social aspects of popular applications like chat or MySpace to the game. It is sad when new players of WoW miss out on all that.
So today Tobold's MMORPG blog is dedicated to ideas on how to make World of Warcraft more social, and by that more interesting, to new players. New players are important to a MMORPG, because it is them that need to replace all those veterans that burn out sooner or later. It is in the interest of everyone that new players to WoW not only have a good time, but also learn how to play in a group.