World of Warcraft Classic, in the weeks before Wrath of the Lich King expansion launches, is overflowing (opens in new tab).
As players hit the US and EU servers, Blizzard is trying to reduce hours-long queue times ahead of the re-release of WoW’s original major expansion to WoW Classic later this month. Players will no longer be able to create new characters or transfer existing ones to the busiest servers, known colloquially in the community as “megaservers”, until the populations are reduced.
“We were hesitant [do] this is because we really dislike the restriction of player movements and the possible breakdown of social circles, but this ethos is no longer compatible with the reality we find ourselves in,” game producer Aggrend wrote. (opens in new tab) in a forum thread of players criticizing the state of the servers.
Blizzard also offers free character transfers on servers that have not yet reached their maximum capacity. Aggrend explained in a series of forum posts why it’s the least disruptive solution to the problem, but said Blizzard is considering other incentives to keep players evenly spread out.
WoW Classic, even more than standard WoW, thrives on strong player communities. It’s built to mimic the old definition of an MMO (before cross-server technology existed), where a healthy server population greatly affects your ability to participate in raiding, PvP, guilds, roleplaying, and other social parts of the experience. Players naturally seek out heavily populated servers where these activities are guaranteed to flourish, and once they’re comfortable, they don’t want to leave.
Long queues and faction population variances ruin the idealistic image of what WoW Classic aims to be, forcing Blizzard to try to reign it in before the expansion arrives.
Aggrend’s posts compare the underpopulated servers to those in the 2008 version of the MMO, trying to dispel player assumptions that it’s not worth porting. According to their data (which is not attributed to specific dates), many of the servers have two to four times the number of concurrent players than the old game.
WoW Classic players have the benefit of history guiding them through missions and activities that would have been new and more difficult 14 years ago, so they often work at a faster and larger scale as a result. Aggrend’s comparison doesn’t necessarily prove that these servers are worth playing for more hardcore players who require large populations to reduce the time it takes to find groups and fuel a strong in-game economy, but the comparison makes sense for more casual players.
Aggrend went on to explain that server capacity can’t just be increased by adding more hardware, and reiterated that right now, those who want to avoid wait times should use the free transfers. “To put it as plainly as possible, we cannot increase capacity any further without inviting additional and potential cascading damage to the service,” they said. “There is no [technological] solution to this. There is no hardware solution to this. This situation won’t get any better when Wrath of the Lich King Classic launches on September 26, but it will get worse.”
WoW Classic is far from the only MMO to struggle with server capacity during the two-plus years of the pandemic. In the first days of its release in 2021, the New World had to shut down character creation (opens in new tab) in order to relieve congested connection queues. And later that year, Final Fantasy 14 had to do the same thing in addition to removing the game from sale (opens in new tab) near the start of the Endwalker expansion.