Bienvenue to the Warcraft Street Journal. This week’s edition is going to hit on some predictions for WoW’s future in regards to servers and an analysis of what Blizzard is currently doing.
Servers have been a staple for pretty much any recent MMO game. It allows players to be spread out in order to not cause overloads and laggy interactions. Part of the problem for WoW is how many servers they currently have. There are 240+ US servers and 260+ EU servers. To put it in perspective, RIFT has about 10 servers. I won’t go into the technical detail of servers and how many players they can hold, because I simply don’t know, but I think it’s fairly obvious that WoW has many more subscribers and proportionately more servers. The decline in WoW subscriptions really needs to have Blizzard take a hard look at their server structure. In short, I believe they need to shut servers down and force free server transfers for players on dying servers.
Now, this is definitely a drastic measure to take, but it does not have to happen all at once. The best option is to slowly do this over time and use a few server merges as testing grounds. Some of the efforts Blizzard has recently made have helped alleviate some of these issues, but they are not on a large enough scale to do anything meaningful. The first of these is the implementation of Cross Realm Zones (CRZ). The leveling experience can seem quite dead, so the implementation of CRZ is definitely a good choice by Blizzard. This is also in-game technology that can withstand server merges and wouldn’t be affected. You’ll see an increased amount of players out in the world, yet it doesn’t affect your major cities and the realm’s economy. Giving players the ability to group up together to run dungeons and quests, regardless of server, has really helped the overall quality of life for the average player. The fact that CRZ isn’t enabled in the current expansion’s continent is also still a good choice to prevent overcrowding of more common questing zones and issues with monster kills.
The next telltale sign came in the form of 50% off character services. There was a mass exodus of players leaving their long forgotten realms for hopes of a new start in a land filled with milk and honey and greener grass. I was in that boat. My whole guild moved off of Alterac Mountains, which had a realm population of about 4000 level 90 horde, and onto Thrall which boasts a jump up to 16,000 level 90 horde players. I even found out that at least 5 other guilds had transferred to Thrall as well. I literally felt that my previous server was dead. There were never any groups forming for PUG raids and scarcely any for heroics, transmog runs, or anything else. A shift to a realm with 4x as many players has definitely been a lot more enjoyable in just this short week I’ve been on Thrall.
So, why do I think this is a sign of change to come in the future? I believe Blizzard was attempting to go ahead and coerce players to make the jump to a different realm on their own accord before having to force players to change realms. They are also afforded to chance to go ahead and reap some additional revenue for their game. I do think this still is another drop in the bucket for “Good Guy Blizzard” though (referenced in my previous article WoW DLC Doesn’t Suck), because it does help ease the burden on players. For instance, I moved 3 characters onto my new server and I’m ecstatic that I only had to spend $37.50 instead of $75.
I’m going to pick on the server Gurubashi for a minute (no hard feelings). The leading site for recording boss kills is showing that a miniscule 990 players on Gurubashi have joined a guild and at least killed a boss in Tier 14 content. Thrall has 13x that. Gurubashi has approximately 2000 horde players and 250 alliance players that have reached level 90 according, yet Blizzard classifies this realm as medium population. Take a look at the header picture. It is a picture I personally took of server statuses at 5AM EST which shows Gurubashi as medium. In fact, scrolling through all of the realm list goes to show that none of the US-based servers are classified as low population. The kicker to this is that Thrall is also classified as a medium population server while enjoying vastly higher numbers of level 90s as Gurubashi. There’s definitely something wrong here.
Flex Raid is the most recent announcement that pushes me towards the idea of shrinking the World of Warcraft. Like CRZ, Flex Raid is an in-game technology that will allow players to play with their friends regardless of server, and also has the capability of holding through server merges without affecting anything major. This is one of the smartest moves Blizzard has made in a while. I don’t believe they will ever allow current content’s Normal or Heroic modes to be raided across multiple realms, but this is definitely a good step in the right direction.
No matter how much uproar it might cause, Blizzard needs to shutdown and consolidate servers for the the benefit of the players and even their own business. Did you personally transfer servers during the sale? Let me know in the comments how you’re feeling. Catch me again next week for another stirring round of opinionated discussion.