[WoW] How has class popularity changed since Jan 2010?

Zardoz recently refreshed his datamining reports, and I thought this was a good opportunity to look at how class distribution is changing in WoW.

In January 2010, I wrote a post using his data to look at class popularity. But how have things changed since then?

Class Rank
Aug 2010
Class as % of level 80 chars
Aug 2010
Class Rank Jan 2010 Class as % of level 80 chars
Jan 2010
% change in pop since Jan
Paladin (1) 15.1 1 15.4 -0.3
Death Knight (2) 12.8 2 13.8 -1.0
Druid (3) 11.6 3 11.4 0.2
Priest (4) 10.1 4 9.9 0.2
Mage (5) 9.1 6 8.8 0.3
Warrior (6) 9.0 5 9.8 -0.8
Shaman (7) 8.9 7 8.4 0.5
Hunter (8) 8.3 8 8.2 0.1
Warlock (9) 7.6 10 7.4 0.2
Rogue (10) 7.5 9 7.4 0.1

You can see clearly here that balancing has nudged towards the desired effect. The two most popular classes as of January have both dropped in relative popularity, and the two least popular classes have both gained in popularity over the last 8 months.

The biggest changes are the drop in numbers of Death Knights and Warriors relative to the rest. People just aren’t rolling new Death Knights and Warriors any more, or at least not as much as other classes. Maybe the DK restriction of only one per server has started to kick in, as people roll multiples of their favourite toons?

It’s possible, but my gut feeling is that these numbers represent people’s initial reaction to announced Cataclysm class changes. They are rushing to level prepare alts who can be ready when the expansion hits. Death Knights face one of the biggest changes because instead of having three different and viable play styles for both tanking and dps, they will have one tank spec and two dps spec lines. Suddenly the golden child class doesn’t seem so very different from the rest. I’m at a loss to explain the warrior numbers too, the class has been in pretty good shape recently from my perspective.

Maybe it’s a tanking issue. Anyone who wants a tank already has one, new players are put off by the aggression of the player base. (Wishing I’d recorded the spec popularity back in January also to compare.)

Classes which saw the biggest bump in popularity as alts were shamans and mages. (Note that hunters are very close to mages in popularity on PvE servers, I mention that in more detail below.) Maybe people also really like the changes they’re getting in Cataclysm (most notably, a version of heroism/ bloodlust). I’m sure this is also a factor with shamans, who look to be getting some nice boosts in the new expansion.

The other reason that people level alts towards the end of an expansion is to fill existing holes in their raid group. It gets harder to recruit because of players burning out, so rushing an alt up as a replacement makes more sense. That could explain why the tank classes saw a relative drop in numbers (hard to gauge with druids because of the numerous specs), they’re less likely to be the spots that needed to be filled.

Zardoz also splits out the percentage distribution on PvP realms as well as PvE realms. The numbers in the table above are combined, looking at the separate numbers does give some more insight.

Hunters are massively more popular on PvE realms (8.9%) than on PvP ones (7.5%) which has skewed the combined  numbers here, bringing them much closer to mages on PvE servers.

Conversely, rogues are more popular on PvP realms (8.4%) than PvE (6.7%).

Warlocks however are identical on both. They’re just less popular in general 🙂

26 thoughts on “[WoW] How has class popularity changed since Jan 2010?

  1. Having only played a paladin up to level 20 or so, I do wonder what attracts so many people to the class. I only created one recently since it’s the one class I don’t really know much about (mine will be prot/holy).

    My class choices, in chronological order, were: rogue, priest, shaman, DK, warlock, hunter, warrior. Of those, only the priest, shaman and DK are 80, although the warrior is well on his way 😀

  2. so as you can see, the pure classes are the less represented. (maybe except for mages because mages have always been a very appealing and well designed class)…

  3. Oh and if nobody has the guts to say it I will: Paladins and DKs are so popular because they are the classes that appeal the most to RETARDS atm.

    Immense Survivability due to plate and heals, very high base damage, very few abilities needed to use in order to advance (3 buttons at most), it’s a retard’s dream.

    No wonder the most in-game kidz play these. and fail at them.

      • Warriors are a pain to level. You can’t heal yourself and take a lot of damage because your gear sucks while leveling.

        DK never drop below 100% hp. They have nice gear to start from their quest and they have enough self heal to never be damaged by any mob.

        Paladins can heal themself (instant with the ret talent) and after mine got replenishment he never had any mana problems.

        I wouldn’t be surprised if warriors would be retards first pick if they could create premades at 80. 🙂

    • I believe that the big draw to DKs are that they were an “OP” class to play & it skipped the first 55 levels. Even if you don’t like them, many people made them to try out the starting zones or realized that they are incredible bank alts. They also made it much easier for a player to try out a new server without feeling like you are startig from scratch again. Thus, making almost anyone who was able to make a DK, made one for one of these reasons.

      Paladins on the other hand were quite powerful in WotLK as tanks, healers, & DPS in both PvE & PvP. They are also quite simple to pick up & weren’t terribly difficult to become proficient with any one of these specs. As far as simplicity goes though, I can honestly say that my BM hunter is far easier to level than my Prot Paladin. A hunter never has to stop while a Paladin must regain mana and heal.

      So claiming that a DK or a Paladin are a “Retard’s dream” probably isn’t the best choice of words 😉

    • Tbh the easiest class I played was Mage. Frostbolt twice, collect loot, next mob.

      Talent tree decisions were – take the ones that improve Frostbolt.

      Raiding was – don’t stand in fire, press Frostbolt.

  4. What’s interesting is to compare these numbers to numbers that were posted back during BC. A WoWInsider article using warcraftrealms data had mages and warriors as the most popular classes, with shaman and paladins bringing up the rear (http://www.wow.com/2007/04/23/why-does-everyone-want-to-dps/).

    Okrane — I think ‘Retards’ tend to play whatever class is viewed as the most powerful, that way they can run around and spam whatever meters measure their effectiveness best. Death Knights and Paladins were both pretty powerful coming out of the gate in Wrath, and DK’s also had the ‘it’s new so I must have it’ appeal. I wonder how many of those DKs are active ‘mains’ now?

    Wrath was really the Golden Age of the Paladin on so many levels. It will be interesting to see what class comes to the forefront in Cataclysm.

  5. Oddly enough, I just came back to WoW and rolled a Warrior and a DK. A Warrior because I like to be useful, and a DK because they looked like a ton of fun. So…sorry if I’m “retarded” because I want to enjoy my experience…which I’m paying for.

  6. Keep in mind that Zardoz is only reporting level 80 characters. Maybe my friends are all slackers, but amongst my friends, none of us who started alts after solid Cataclysm information was public are near 80. I think the highest just hit 60. So, I’d be surprised if Cataclysm expectations are actually altering the class balance of level 80 toons yet.

    Nick Yee has also done some interesting research on player demographics and character trends. Check him out:

    His survey data from 2005 show Hunters, Rogues and Warriors as the most popular classes. The mix sure has changed.

    • Nick Yee has done some awesome work and I’d encourage anyone with an interest in MMO demographics to check out his site. But unfortunately, it is a few years old now.

      It’s still very interesting, especially, as you say, to compare the classes in 2005.

    • I’ll third the Nick Yee recommendation.

      Also, I’ll second the point about this being “characters at the level cap”. Maybe it’s just because I’m not a raider, but the population at large is more interesting to me… especially that 70% or so of characters that never get past level 10. (Yeah, there are probably more than a few bank alts and trash characters there, but there are also players who never get a class to click quickly and give up on it when things get more grindy.)

      What with CAT changing the leveling experience on top of the talent revamps (and the new race/class mix), I’m most interested in what that does to the game on the whole, not just the raiding treadmill.

      • I think that’s a little unfair. Not every level 80 is on ‘the raiding treadmill’. They’re just classes that are played by people who were invested enough in the game to level to 80. Sure, it’d be interesting to look at lower level data, but this data wasn’t trivial to collect and is meaningful too, and includes a high proportion of the more active players.

        With lower level characters, while it’s interesting to look at the numbers of different classes created, it is also really really hard to know how you’d get anything specific enough to make any conclusions about. I don’t think characters below level 10 are shown on the armoury anyway but even if they were, I’m not sure how much information that would really give you.

  7. What I’m wondering is what happened to all those Demonic Sac Warlocks and macro based BM hunters that made up most of the BC population. There’s a lot of idle BT geared alts lurking around.

    I wonder if they’ll hang out if with the ICC geared Pally tanks come Cata.

    People do gravitate to whichever class is ‘best’. Which will never, ever be Shamans. Even when they were essential to raiding and the best healers, no one played them.

  8. Oh I’m glad someone actually has the time to analyze my data. Sure wish I did… Well done.

    I’d be a bit careful about reading anything into shifts of less than 1%. There is some sampling error in there.

    To my eye the data suggests:
    i) The era of “peak DK” has arrived
    ii) Druids are still being “discovered” as a playable class
    iii) Hunters have moved from hero to zero over the life of the game
    iv) Blizz really does “hate my class”, if your class is Warlock or Rogue.

    If you have a bit of time, have a look at my report on popularity of each of the three trees across the classes. I suspect some of the more interesting changes can be found in there.

    Oh and if you’d like some of the raw data to play with in a spreadsheet or whatever, leave a comment on my blog and I’d be happy to oblige.

    • Rogues haven’t done well at all in WotLK. Between the removal of the old hybrid tax, repeatedly losing their position as top melee DPS to Warriors, Ret and Druid Cats, having only a brief moment sun right near the end of the expansion when people have settled into their mains and the death of CC, they have not done well.

      Warlocks top DPS spec just has the misfortune to be horribly complicated to play.

    • Thanks, Zardoz.

      I’m mostly interested in trying to track changes in the population. I may well take you up on that offer of the raw data so as to make some better comparisons next time!

      Also, you do an awesome job with this data collection!

  9. Pingback: Killed in a Smiling Accident. » Blog Archive » Regulation 571.111

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