A lot of the discussion on the covenant system and Shadowlands generally recently has had a common thread – namely that these systems are only bad for the top 1%, minmaxing part of the playerbase and that the covenant system is absolutely fine for the 90%+ of the playerbase which plays the game more casually. I don't want this to devolve into a discussion about the pros and cons of the system itself, that discussion exists in hundreds of posts elsewhere and will likely continue to long after Shadowlands actually releases. What I want to look into is the what the "top 1%" actually means in WoW PvE today, and the fundamental assumption that "min-maxers" and "the 1%" are in any way linked, because this opinion is going unchallenged without any actual data to back it up. I'm going to look at this from a raiding and m+ perspective – I'm not as familiar with the PvP scene and as far as I know PvP doesn't have the same level of data as PvE does. This post is gonna have a lot of maths – sorry 🙂
Blizzard doesn't publish data about active subscribers anymore, so we have to make a few assumptions.
1: The currently active non-Chinese WoW playerbase is between 1 million and 6 million individual players.
2: The average AotC guild has between 12 and 40 players.
3: The average CE guild has between 20 and 35 players.
I've given an extremely conservative and an extremely generous estimate for each of these. They're chosen completely arbitrarily, but while nobody has the actual numbers, I'm pretty certain everyone can agree the real figure falls in between the two for each one.
WoWProgress has data for the number of guilds which have cleared every boss in each difficulty.
- 1,976 guilds have Cutting Edge
- 3,128 guilds are 11/12M
- 15,576 guilds have AotC
If we use the most conservative numbers and assume the playerbase is six million, that CE guilds average 20 individuals only, that AotC guilds average 12 individuals only and that nobody pugs AotC, we can see that the lower bounds for the percentage of the playerbase raiding at each level are the following:
- At least 0.66% of the playerbase has Cutting Edge in Ny'alotha.
- At least 1.04% of the playerbase is 11/12M in Ny'alotha.
- At least 3.12% of the playerbase has Ahead of the Curve in Ny'alotha.
This bears repeating: If you kill Carapace of N'zoth on Mythic for the first time today, even using the most conservative estimate for the size of the playerbase and the size of guilds, you are not part of the top 1%. Realistically, it's likely that that's true even for people getting Cutting Edge now, because the non-CN playerbase probably isn't close to as large as 6 million. The upper bound for AotC is 62.3% of the playerbase, as an aside.
Lets look at M+, which raider.io has excellent data for.
In BfA Season 4 currently, 7,055,124 unique characters have cleared a M+ dungeon, 2,320,358 unique characters have cleared a M+15 or higher dungeon and 266,506 unique characters have cleared a M+20 or higher dungeon.
Obviously, a lot of people do M+ on alts – to get a lower bound lets say, very generously, that everyone doing any level of M+ does that level of M+ on four characters total. Obviously this is way over the top compared to the likely reality, but we're saying this to get a lower bound only.
Again, if we use the most conservative figures we have – that the total playerbase is 6 million and that everyone doing M+ is doing so on four characters, we get the following lower bounds:
- At least 29.44% of the playerbase has cleared any M+ dungeon in S4.
- At least 9.67% of the playerbase has cleared a M+15 dungeon in S4.
- At least 1.11% of the playerbase has cleared a M+20 dungeon in S4.
Once again, the "top 1%" is much more exclusive than I think a lot of people assume – even under the most conservative figures, if you do your first M+20 dungeon of S4 today, you don't make it into the top 1%.
Why is this relevant? The point I would make is that this data clearly proves, for example, people doing heroic raiding or weekly +15s are far outside the top 1% and likely outside the top 33%, and that "people who have done any level of M+ in S4" almost certainly make up a large majority of the playerbase if the lower bound is 29%.
Fire mage is currently the meta spec for raiding, and Rune of Power is universally the optimal talent. Lets look at the figures in Heroic raiding for spec and talent usage in that line:
- 63.1% of heroic raiding Mages play Fire.
- 89.5% of all heroic raiding Fire Mages play Rune of Power.
This repeats itself all across WarcraftLogs for any class which has a spec choice for their role, and with every talent which has a fixed meta. Some examples are below:
- 93.1% of all heroic raiding Hunter parses are BM.
- 78.1% of all heroic raiding Warlock parses are Destruction.
- 83.9% of all heroic raiding Balance Druid parses are talented into Starlord.
- 80.8% of all heroic raiding Holy Paladin parses use Vision of Perfection as their major essence.
A good example of the playerbase clearly preferring the "optimal spec" is Mage in BfA. In M+, the "meta" spec for Mage shifted strongly from Frost to Fire between S2 through to S4.
- In Season 2, 64.1% of all Mages that cleared any level of M+ were Frost, and 88.1% of all Mages that cleared a m+15 were Frost.
- In Season 4, 51.5% of all Mages that cleared any level of M+ were Fire, and 64.1% of all Mages that cleared a m+15 were Fire.
This obviously shows a clear shift in what is empirically a large portion of the playerbase and likely a majority of the playerbase. Again, even the most conservative estimate we have shows that "people that do M+" are around a third of the playerbase and that realistically, they're in the majority, and the above data shows that likely majority of the playerbase shifting their playstyle to play what's considered most powerful.
A lot of you reading this are probably thinking that the fact that a much larger portion of the playerbase than just the "1%" cares about character power and playing what's optimal over what they prefer thematically or aesthetically is blinding obvious, and didn't need this much data to prove it. The meme keeps on being repeated though – that "casuals" (whatever this word even means anymore), make up 90%+ of the playerbase and that they don't care at all about minmaxing. Min-maxing is only something the top 1% hardcore players do and Blizzard shouldn't cater for such a tiny minority. This is clearly, empirically untrue. Websites like Raidbots, Bloodmallet and Subcreation get millions of hits a month and they're obviously not from just the top 1% of the playerbase.
There are many pro-covenant, pro-locked choice arguments to be made. The argument that those against locked covenants are "only the top 1% minmaxers" is not one of them.
TLDR: The 1% is much more exclusive than you probably think it is, people that clear M+15s are at least 10% of the playerbase and likely considerably more, the majority of the playerbase does some level of M+ for sure, and way more people min-max to some extent than a lot of people assume, ergo the "covenants only suck for the 1%" argument is lunacy.
Sources & other data can be found in
Source: Original link
© Post "Covenants, the 1% and Minmaxers – A Data Driven Discussion" for game World of Warcraft.
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