I've been steadily moving along, splitting time between battlegrounds and skinning, and playing about 3 days a week or so. There have been many waves of players passing through BGs on new Pandaren toons, and we're now down to seeing more traditional BG compositions --with a few sprinkling of Monks, that is.
Once I reached the mid-30s on my Rogue, BG leveling slowed to a crawl and is only now starting to pick up with the unlocking of Alterac Valley. I don't think this is by design, because leveling via BGs is heavily dependent upon your side's ability to grind out wins. And since the Alliance has had very few healers in the mid-30s to early 40s BGs, the wins have been hard to come by.
The bots are in vogue too, I see.
Eye of the Storm seems to be the biggest place where you'll find bots, because their behavior is so obvious. When a toon repeatedly:
- pops from a graveyard
- runs up to the nearest base
- pivots where the buff would ordinarily be (but isn't because it was freaking used already)
- races to the mid
I'd like to see Blizz be a bit more proactive in zapping bots, since they can't really be gotten rid of from a BG except by being marked as away, but I guess that's something they're going to have to come up with. Making it easier to kick people from BGs could turn out to be a double edged sword, because people could simply vote-kick players who are on the low end of the level range just because they're on the low end of the level range. I'm not sure Blizz wants to pay enough
Since I've got 40 levels to go before I really purchase Mists, I've found it interesting watching the lures the Blizzard has been dangling out in the internet. The free week in Pandaria, the Christmas sales, the recruit a friend, they're all out in force. I have no idea how well the bait has been working, but the fact that Blizz hasn't stopped them yet is an indicator that they're fighting hard to get all of their lost subs back. Or, perhaps, just to stay even with what they've got.
My own guild, however, hasn't recovered from Cataclysm. In fact, while some people returned for Mists, others came back and have since disappeared. Still others left the guild for other, more active raiding guilds before Mists dropped. And there have been those who came back but not because of Mists, but because their work/life/whatever has finally allowed them the free time to resub. But from the high point in Wrath where the guild was pulling in enough people to run 25s on a once-in-a-while basis, I've yet to see 10 people logged in at one time on any consistent basis, let alone raid. There have been a lot of evenings when I've been the only one logged in.
"This server's dead," I saw someone type recently in Gen Chat. Given that the crowds in Stormwind aren't very impressive --still averaging in the 50s on a given night-- I suspect that there's more truth to that than meets the eye.
Still, the game seems to be doing fairly well for itself.
Judging by the blogs I read (a subset of which is listed on our site), the most popular parts of WoW in its current state are a) Transmogs, b) Pet Battles, and c) Pandas. Raiding, instances, PvP in its various forms, and the ongoing expac story haven't been very active topics in Mists. Now, while people write a lot about Dailies, I can say that while the topic is popular, the activity is not.
I think it is safe to say that if Transmogs and Pet Battles didn't exist, then there wouldn't be nearly as many people excited about Mists as they seem to be. I'm not sure about the staying power of either through the entire expac, but Transmogs at least seems to scratch the itch of a subset of WoW players well enough to last long term. Of course, it also takes some pressure off of the Blizz art team to not repeat the BC clown gear, since people will merely transmog any "ugly" gear into something they like.
I'm not quite sure what to make about Pet Battles. Judging by bloggers alone it seems wildly popular, yet ragging on Pet Battles is a popular topic in low level BGs. I suspect that Pet Battles falls squarely into the love-it-or-hate-it category, with the people who don't really give a damn (like me) few and far between. I suspect the Pet Battle mojo will last a lot longer --more than I anticipated, anyway-- by simply creating new pets as part of upcoming patches. Pets are easier to design than raid or instance bosses, and don't need backstory like questlines, so they're incredibly easy to drop into a story as a carrot-on-a-stick for the aficionados. "Run enough dailies, get a pet!" "Go through this side questline, get a pet!" This isn't exactly new*, but Pet Battles ratchets the desire up to another level entirely.
Whether that desire will flame out is the million dollar question, and I don't have an answer for that. After all, I still can't explain the continuing fascination with Justin Bieber, and I have middle school kids in the house.
*The Miniwing quest reward in Terokkar Forest, for example.
EtA: I thought "support staff" and typed "devs". Sigh.