Cross-faction raiding can’t come soon enough to World of Warcraft. For the better part of the game’s history, faction population may not have been perfectly balanced, but it was balanced enough to provide World of Warcraft players equal opportunities to engage in group content without being disrupted by their choice of faction.
While the situation in Battle for Azeroth was already shaky despite Blizzard’s attempts to stop the bleeding, the underlying issues that caused the faction imbalance in the first place snowballed in Shadowlands to such a degree that the developers were forced to introduce cross-faction play to World of Warcraft in the upcoming patch.
Alliance players were already struggling to complete high-end content compared to their Horde peers, and Twitch streamer Asmongold’s failed return for Zereth Mortis was a damning indictment that the once proud Alliance faction was now on life support. As the first hundred Horde guilds completed the Mythic version of Shadowlands’ final raid – Sepulcher of the First Ones – only nine Alliance guilds have done the same, with many in the community estimating that it would take several months for them to catch up with their Horde counterparts.
Given the way World of Warcraft’s raid lockout system works, cross-server Mythic raiding is restricted to all players in a faction until the first hundred guilds of that faction clear the final boss of a tier on Mythic difficulty. While the Horde playerbase will be able to enjoy the benefits of cross-server raiding, the already diminished Alliance population will be forced to wait for their faction’s top guilds to clear the content, or give up – pay for faction transfer – and further exacerbate the situation.
Designing cutting edge raid content around racial abilities isn’t an easy thing. Even though Blizzard Entertainment may not have foreseen the faction imbalance in World of Warcraft to escalate to the point where it would start to severely affect and restrict gameplay, people are choosing to hold the developers responsible for addressing the situation too late.
The problem with faction imbalance is ultimately a social one, as racial abilities are no longer as impactful as they’ve once been. But an important thing to remember is that this social problem emerged from a design one, where the imbalance with racial abilities in World of Warcraft wasn’t tackled with enough urgency.
It started with the top World of Warcraft guilds investing in faction-transfers to maximize their damage output, as orcs and trolls had a severe advantage over other races as far back as Mists of Pandaria. With the growing popularity of parsing, theorycrafting, and optimizing their gameplay, people who wanted a shot at joining the upper echelon of players followed in the wake of these guilds, and over the course of several expansions, the Alliance population kept dwindling.
Cross-faction raiding may help soothe the problem with faction imbalance, but most players seem to believe that it won’t properly be addressed until Blizzard Entertainment introduces cross-faction guilds to World of Warcraft as well.
World of Warcraft is available now on PC.