High Probability of New Realms for Cataclysm

Posted by Daeity On Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Blizzard hasn't said anything official on the matter, but most players are assuming that new realms will not be created in anticipation of World of Warcraft's next expansion pack.

The following was even posted by a Community MVP on the WoW Forums:

However, those non-Blizzard employees aren't exactly known for telling the truth or even being aware of simple activities that take place behind the scenes at Blizzard.

As of right now, every post I have been able to find on the matter (official and unofficial forums) claims that "word on the street" is that no new servers will be opened. So that's the belief of most WoW players. I can understand the logic: there's no growth, so why would they increase the number of realms?

But, the problem is that most players base their decision on declining subscription figures and subsequently mistake servers with realms.

Each realm is just a virtual object operated by a cluster of servers. Some realms utilize more servers than others, and information on multiple realms is actually stored on the same servers. There are a ton of processes and activities taking place on servers that in fact manage multiple realms.

It would be very easy to create a new realm (it's just a data object) without actually changing the quantity of servers.

New Realms ≠ New Purchases or Servers

Blizzard CEO Mike Morhaime even stated that there was no growth from December 2008 to February 2010.

To be clear, there was no player growth when WOTLK launched however Blizzard still created 12 new realms in the US.

Nov/08 - Dawnbringer
Nov/08 - Drak'Tharon
Nov/08 - Fizzcrank
Nov/08 - Galakrond
Nov/08 - Grizzly Hills
Nov/08 - Gundrak
Nov/08 - Saurfang
Jan/09 - Borean Tundra
Jan/09 - Garrosh
Jan/09 - Wyrmrest Accord
Jan/09 - Winterhoof
Mar/09 - Nesingwary

At the time, player distribution across the realms was even the same as it now. (i.e. 50-60% of servers half full, and an even split between high population and low population servers.)

Keep in mind that each "realm" also has it's own set of rules. A "high population" on one realm does not necessarily mean the same quantity of users on another realm. It all depends on server load, distribution, and how it's configured. Why leave multiple servers idling when their processing power can be used to support the load of other realms?

For example, let's say each realm can only support a maximum of 6,000 players on each faction. The realm never even hits half that amount (of players) during peak times. So, then you just create a new realm, split up the servers managing the one realm into two, now suddenly you have 2 realms without increasing the number of servers. And both servers can be "upgraded" from low population to medium/high population each. If the servers start to get stretched, additional servers (running low load) can be simply added to this cluster to increase number of players. Or an existing realm can just be opened up to free transfers. (This is just an example and not exactly what happens. There are actually hundreds of servers/blades involved. From a server administration perspective though, it's easy to manage and coordinate.) =]

Why would Blizzard even care about opening new realms?

For the same reason they did it for Wrath of the Lich King.

We know that there was no actual player growth at the time, and servers weren't over capacity with players (in fact about 50% of the realms were at half capacity), so why did they create new realms?

Company Perception and Reputation Management:

Making an announcement that you have to create new realms for "unexpected growth" or "rapidly increasing user base" or "significant number of sales" gives the impression of player growth. Even if you just announce that new servers "need to be added" it gives the perception that player counts are growing.

Investors, share holders, managers, and players love to hear that. It reinstates confidence in the company. =]

Blizzard also wants to be known as the #1 provider of the best MMORPG in the world. So you need to control the perception of your company and give the impression of constant growth and more profits. (Even though Quarterly Reports show hardly any gains at all, and actual player counts are really about half of "active subscribers".)

It Makes The Players Happy:

It's good for public relations too. Players want new realms to be created, so that they can create characters from scratch and try to get ahead of the others.

There's also the fear of high levels harassing the new low level characters. Remember all of the 70-80's hanging around Outlands waiting for the freshly made Death Knights to step through the portal? That same fear exists now. Except now, it's level 80-85's that can fly well overhead hunting Level 20's and finding them very quickly. With new realms, at least the option is available to start brand new just like everyone else.

There's also nothing worse than joining a server when everyone is already Level 80, there's no low-to-mid level advancement and all of the zones are empty.

Throw on your tinfoil hats! New realms might actually mean reduced servers and player counts.

Something interesting occurred to me while I was researching this. I really have no idea if this happens or not, but it's a possibility and I'm just throwing it out there. =]

Because the exact number of server-to-realm ratio has never been announced, and the fact that servers manage multiple "parts" of different realms, it's entirely possible to reduce the physical number of servers (because of declining players) but also create new realms with the added bonus of increasing customer/investor confidence.

As new realms open, all that is required is changing the internal definition of what a Low, Medium, or High population server implies. A high population could mean 10,000 concurrent users but it could just as easily mean 8,000 concurrent users.

People will get dispersed as realms are split up, but because of the large size of World of Warcraft - would anyone even notice? Factions all gather together at single locations anyways and if realms are split up, users would just assume that they see less players while questing because the world is so vast and they could be anywhere.

If it ever became an issue ("gasp! the users are starting to notice"), all that's required is opening up free transfers to the realm. =]

So basically, there shouldn't be any new realms based on WoW's growth, but it makes logical sense to launch new realms just like they did for WOTLK (which was in a similar circumstance, and users ALSO said there wouldn't be new realms at the time.) Of course, now that this information is public and Blizzard knows-that-you-know.. who knows? =]

In 2008, Vaneras wrote:
"The decision of whether or not to open a new realm is entirely based on the population size on existing realms, which is something that we are continuously monitoring. We will of course open new realms if and when it is needed :-)"

In 2008, Nethaera wrote:
"New realms are released as we feel they are necessary and we don't normally announce them ahead of time. I can't answer any of the above since they are all contingent on timing based need. If we end up needing more realms, we'll create them based for the specific purpose they need to fill."

In 2008 and 3 days before release, Nethaera wrote:
"It's too early to say whether these will be necessary or not."

In 2010, Crepe wrote:
"As always, new realm are opened due to population issues. If you wish new realms, you need to find 200,000 of your closest friends to subscribe."

In 2010, Crepe wrote:
"New realms are put up when population needs require them. We won't know until they go up."

If Mekkatorque was here, he'd say the chances of new realms being opened are less than 12.7%. =]

Other than that, the launch of Cataclysm is just a few months away (first week of December). Hope you all have your orders in!


FYI - Another official posting on the WoW Forums:

Pretty much everyone is saying that there will NOT be any new realms due to low subscription numbers. I like to swim against the current though. So basically, there shouldn't be any new realms created, but it still might happen on launch day or within a couple months after. WOTLK for example launched in November, and new servers opened in January and then March. There's a good chance you'll see something like "Due to the unanticipated number of new players - we need to open up new realms!" at least by March of next year (especially after Christmas sales). What a great way to please the investors or give the impression of massive growth though, even if there is none. =]