The problem with Winter Bash hats unlock trigger is still the same, year after year.
Many triggers are balanced having Stack Overflow numbers and traffic in mind.
Earn 150 reps in 15 days? On Sharepoint, top users earn an average of 25 rep in a week.
Close, edit and reopen question? A lot easier, if you can do it single handed. And even then... you need something to close and edit in the first place.
Vote 150 times? Yep, this would "increase traffic", but on some minor sites this is also just asking me to go on a random vote spree.
Accepted answer with no votes? Easy for me to answer and don't get any vote, but to have the few users there actually return to accept...
20 reviews with no fail? Good luck getting to 20 reviews in the first place.
As you can probably see, many hats have triggers that are in favor to high-traffic sites where getting things to do is easier. But to be fair, things have always been that way, so I wouldn't say this pattern is really specific to this year.
So, what is different then? I don't know. I, for one, don't really thing hats are any harder to get this year. As usual, I have some hats that were easy to get, some that I had to work a little for and some that I simply know aren't worth the effort (or even possible for me to unlock).
That said, I would say that I also noticed something similar to your claim: "quitting" after one or two days. I have noticed that every year there is a big talk about "hats" a few weeks before the event starts, then the "fire" douses a few days into the event.
I have tried to look for a cause, but I couldn't find any. I have only hypothesis, so read on only if you are interested in "guessing".
To me, the problem is a mix of two factors:
- Too high expectations: every years users expect something big, new and different from the past years. Yet, hats triggers haven't really changed and are usually built around the same things: votes, comments, badges etc. If you noticed, this year "Knit a pattern" feature got more attention than actual hats.
- Hats are no longer "new": yep, it is a funny year end event, but by now many users have lived thru multiple Bashes... They know that the hats are here to stay just for 2-3 weeks and are starting to get tired. Recycled hats only increase the felling of "already seen, already done".
Combining this two elements is probably enough to "bore" out some users that aren't really that much into "awards collecting".
Let's consider Bartle taxonomy of players types:
How this applies to hats?
- Killers enjoy climbing the leaderboard, to show off they are better and have more hats than others. In the past days, they also were the ones that enjoyed the most hats like Eureka, since those by definition could be got only by a limited number of users.
- Achievers still want to get hats, but they only want to get hats for the simple enjoyment of doing so. As soon as they "empty" the pool of hats that are available to them (see above: due to the different sites traffic some hats could be impossible for them to get) they get bored and move to something else.
- Socializers probably have more fun trying to collaborate in order to find the triggers to secret hats. Every year they congregate to a "Winter Bash" room on the chat sites and lurks there, posting guess and making jokes. Their problem is that as the secret hats triggers are discovered they get less and less topics to discuss.
- Explorers are similar to Achievers in a way, but they are the ones that enjoys seeing a new hat design even more than getting the actual hat. By extension, they also like searching for easter eggs and similar things. Obviously, if there aren't eggs to find and if the hats have reused designs they rapidly lose interest in the event.
In conclusion, I wouldn't say that people are quitting the event because the event is harder this year. In my opinion the problem is that users are less interested because they are starting to find the event less funny, be it for "repeated exposure" or because of the other issues I tried to analyze before. Saddly, I don't have a solution to this problem: personally, I have just been trying to fill the gaps with my own imagination. I know this isn't really an advice that anyone will be willing to follow, but perhaps.. to enjoy the event more.. try to see it thru the eyes of a child. Try to just have fun knitting patterns on the Winter Bash sites. Create silly submissions for the yearly swag. Post random jokes about the reason the chicken isn't anywhere to be found this year (personally I still think balpha has eaten it).
In the end this is just a game. So, to enjoy it at the best, go out there and play.