DCS has grown a lot in recent years. Not only in scope but more importantly also in player numbers.
I remember when I started almost 10 years ago (damn, time flies!) I was part of a small group of about 5 people who flew DCS: A-10C missions on a semi regular basis. There weren’t really any well populated public servers and when we wanted to fly someone hosted the mission and we flew together for a couple of hours (usually until the host’s DCS crashed ).
Then DCS World came along and things started to change a little. I was a regular on the Virtual Aerobatics server, got formation flying lessons from one of the guys on their TeamSpeak, regularly flew the airraces on their server, practiced aerial refueling etc.
The little group I was part of started to kick of a little more with the release of the Huey but there still wasn’t a dedicated server .exe for DCS and we weren’t big enough to host and maintain our own server - so missions were still hosted locally when we wanted to fly together. Operation Bactria, Operation Vetka, Operation Pilot Search, Huey Drop - we flew them all and we also built our own missions.
But it was still only a handful of people. 2015 we founded the ‘Serious Uglies’ with the goal to have a group that is open to anyone who wants to learn real life procedures together but without losing out on the silliness that we like to engage in from time to time.
However, DCS was still too small and often too buggy to keep people interested outside of some few dedicated individuals. But we did grow - slowly.
Then the biggest change was the release of the Hornet. Suddenly there was a lot more interest and a lot more people turned up on our Discord to fly with us. It was so much that we had to stop being open to anyone who wanted to learn flying jets and helicopters in DCS with us.
Compare this to today: We have large public servers that see good player numbers like the hoggit severs, blue flag, Storm of War etc and in our little squadron we have three dedicated servers, our bigger organised missions see 10-20 people, training usually 5-10 people atm but it’s summer and people are on holiday, it’s too hot to turn on the PC etc.
When we do stuff like training with a controlled airfield (thanks to our RL pilots and our RL air traffic controller!) or train CASE I or CASE III we often get 10-15 people as well, even during the summer months. And everyone turns up when we do large formation flights xD
This was the big formation for our 5 year anniversary last year, appropriately led by a trusty A-10C, the plane that started it all: