[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 :)