Blizzard Linking Low-Population WoW Servers

Currently the subscriber count for World of Warcraft is around 7.7 million, a significant drop from the peak of 12 million Blizzard saw in 2010. That's still a huge population of customers – around 334K less than the current number inhabiting Israel -- who are gladly forking out a nice fee per month to tromp around in a digital world. Yet some of the realm's servers are now feeling a little less populated during the long stretch between expansion packs.

"Over the years, World of Warcraft players of all kinds have naturally migrated to different realms to play with their friends, find new guilds, strive for Heroic boss kills, search for the most competitive PvP experiences, and otherwise try to find the right place to call home," the company said. "Over time, these shifts in player population can sometimes create a less-than-optimal play experience for those on less popular realms, making it tougher to find guilds, conquer group content, and get what they’re looking for from the Auction House and in-game economy."

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To address this, Blizzard plans to introduce Connected Realms in Patch 5.4. This will supposedly present the appearance that the population has increased without actually merging the low-level servers. Using the company's existing cross-realm technology, a set of two or more standard realms will be permanently and seamlessly "linked" and behave as if they were one cohesive realm. Thus, players will have access to a single Auction House, join the same Raids and Dungeons and more.

"Our goal with Connected Realms is to give players on lower-population realms more opportunities to group up, compete, and connect with other players to take on Azeroth’s bigger challenges," Blizzard said. "That sort of interaction is a big part of what makes World of Warcraft fun, and this feature will help us deliver that experience to even more players."

So why not just merge the servers? Blizzard said linking is less disruptive to players, as merging would require forced name changes if there were conflicts. Merging would also confuse returning players, as there's a good chance their realm would be missing from the realm list. Some players also feel strong ties to their realm's name and history, and Blizzard doesn't want to disrupt that.

"Our cross-realm technology has continued to evolve since it was first developed for joining players in dungeons," Blizzard said. "It’s now at a point where we can create seamless worlds made up of multiple individual realms, and we think there are some really positive benefits to that."

Currently Blizzard hasn't decided which realms will fall within a Connected Realm umbrella, or how many, but they will be of the same type as in PvE to PvE, PvP to PvP and so on. Blizzard also indicated that there will be multiple Connected Realms that will be different in size. So far there's no set date as to when the first Connected Realm will be established, but it will be some time after the launch of Patch 5.4.

"Our goal is to create a vibrant and fun online experience where you can join guilds, access an active Auction House, and band together to take on group content," Blizzard said.

Kevin started taking PCs apart in the 90s when Quake was on the way and his PC lacked the required components. Since then, he’s loved all things PC-related and cool gadgets ranging from the New Nintendo 3DS to Android tablets. He is currently a contributor at Digital Trends, writing about everything from computers to how-to content on Windows and Macs to reviews of the latest laptops from HP, Dell, Lenovo, and more. 

  • memadmax
    I'm glad for this.
    One of the reasons why I didn't go beyond the free week of MoP was because I got on my realm and there was nobody around. My guild, gone, AH, empty, SW had a few players walking around like zombies, but not much else...
  • Hunter_Killers
    There's been low to bordering on dead realms since vanilla. Far too many excuses for a play experience that can never take off in those conditions. You pretty much had 3 options.

    1) Quit
    2) Reroll
    3) Pay Blizzard to fix their own problems
  • master9716
    Play Rift , Its Free and a really good alternative without a good battleground system yet . When I quit wow it was after Cataclysm was released do to the fact that I was tired of a recycled game . Lych King was fun - Top 10 in world of logs dps . I didnt stick around like all the other nerds that put up with it though .
  • midnightgun
    I am still waiting for it to cost less then 200 bucks to transfer my toons to a server that I would want to be on. I did it once, not doing it again. Merging it with another low pop server isn't the same as being on a highly active and engaging server, especially when you play at night
  • dalethepcman
    The beginning of the end (and not nearly soon enough). Anyone who didn't see this coming wasn't looking.
  • Grandmastersexsay
    It's a shame they made leveling so easy. It used to be about the journey, not the destination.
  • jscynder
    Damn. And I was hoping I could quest without having competition for my mobs. But seriously I just hope they KEEP THE BALANCE of horde to alliance. I cant stand questing in low level zones and getting ganked by someone with a chip on their shoulder.
  • bowzef
    about time and honestly i reallllyy want this game to just DROP DEAD! but it never will i has no respect for blizzard or anything they do, all there products are crap now days they use brand loyalist to keep them going, and ofc WoW, with out WoW blizzard would be a bankrupt PoS dev team that would no longer exist
  • monkeycmonkeydu
    Surprised Ol Bobby Kotick isn't charging for this 'feature'... His policy is usually make the player pay for his mistakes, why should this be the exception?