It's widely agreed upon that WoW is not at its most popular at the moment. People are looking forward to Cataclysm, but the content currently in the game feels worn out. Is there anyone who wanted to see ICC and hasn't actually done so yet? It seems that there's little left to do if you aren't an altoholic or a dedicated achievement hunter. People are playing less and less.
Or are they? I mean, I have yet to see anyone disagree with the notion, but at the same time we don't seem to have anything solid to back it up. As far as I'm aware Blizzard hasn't released any information about their subscription numbers in quite a while, and anecdotal evidence of someone's guild going quiet doesn't really prove anything, does it? Dalaran still seems reasonably busy to me on my server, and while dungeon finder queues on my healers were instant the other day, that doesn't necessarily mean that fewer healers are running dungeons. (Maybe more people have switched to tanking instead?)
As we were discussing the summer slump in my guild, one of my guildies had the brilliant idea of using WoWProgress as an indicator of current raid activity. Raiding isn't all there is to do in the game, but it's definitely an important part. The statistics for my home realm Earthen Ring were an eye-opener for sure.
Let's start with the newest raid, the Ruby Sanctum. It's been out for one and a half months now, and only twelve guilds on my server have cleared it on 25-man, one of them on heroic. Considering that the site has records of no less than 91 Earthen Ring guilds killing bosses in 25-man ICC, that's a pretty poor turnout. Few people seem to care about Halion.
The ten-man stats paint a pretty similar picture. 31 guilds have successfully cleared the Sanctum on ten-man (two of them on heroic), but compared to the 110 guilds that have been active in ICC-10, that's pretty much nothing.
The ICC statistics themselves also show a very obvious slump in activity. Of the forty most progressed 25-man guilds, only eight have recorded any sort of progression in July or August (meaning a new boss kill or an achievement). Before the summer pretty much all of them had at least one progression kill a month, usually more. No less than sixteen of these "top" guilds haven't achieved anything remarkable since May or even earlier. It's unrealistic to think that they just hit a brick wall that they simply couldn't get past, all at the same time and at completely different points of progression. (Only five guilds are on 11/12 heroic.) They just don't seem to have the numbers and motivation to push on anymore.
Again, the ten-man picture is slightly less dire, presumably because these runs are easier to organise and can serve as a fallback for 25-man guilds that end up being short on numbers. But still: of the forty best guilds that are still progressing (that is to say, discounting the two that have killed the Lich King on heroic mode), less than half have killed anything new in July or August. Clearly interest in this format is currently on the decline as well, even if not quite as steeply as in the case of 25-man.
I do think that this is a strong indicator that in-game activity is on a sharp decline, at least on my server. Presumably the statistics for other servers paint a similar picture, though there might be variations of course.
Of course now I wonder how this compares to previous summers, or to the months before the release of the current expansion. I know my guild didn't fall apart the way it did recently back in previous summers, and before the release of WOTLK we were actually franticly trying to clear the Black Temple just before the final nerf. We didn't bother working on the Sunwell anymore after killing Illidan, but that drop in interest happened about two weeks before expansion release, not six months ahead of it. Too bad I don't have any numbers from other guilds for those times.
What are other people's experiences in that regard?