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What it takes to get to the top
It's a common misconception that the time you spend playing an MMO is entirely correlated with your success. The theory goes that these games take most of their appeal from the idea that you will be more successful the more you play it - that the rewards that you get in the form of better gear for your character can only be won through spending more time on the game performing simple and repetitive tasks.
In reality, becoming successful in a game like World of Warcraft takes a great deal of skill, organization and of course a good deal of time spent. However, the latter category is rather beside the point - it's that the people who are most successful use their time intelligently - well, as intelligently as you can playing a game - rather than suboptimally.
If time spent playing the game was the primary determinant of success, nearly everyone would have completed the Sunwell raiding instance by now. It was released on April 8th, and all the bosses unlocked on May 20th, but as of this writing, only 163 guilds worldwide have completed it, a scant 73 of those located in the United States, according to the raiding data aggregation site Wowjutsu. Granting a generous number of about 35 active raiders per guild - it's often less - that makes for only 2,555 players out of a playing population of millions that have actually completed the most challenging PvE encounter. That's really not very many.
Why is that? Doesn't that contradict the common portrayal of MMOs as "easy" games that require little focus, attention and skill? If MMOs are so easy, shouldn't it be relatively trivial for someone with enough free time to win the prize money offered at many gaming tournaments?
Actually, the major appeal to MMOs at the high end of play is the intellectual challenge of staying abreast of all the myriad techniques for staying on the bleeding edge of the game. Your average raider or advanced PvPer will need to keep in mind literally dozens of complex strategies, needs to have an encyclopedic knowledge of the various character abilities in the game and experience putting it all into action. The leaders need to be able to manage a small to medium sized team while ensuring that they recruit enough people to keep the enterprise going. Particularly for guild leaders, it's about as involving to run a successful high end guild as it is to run a small business.