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World of Warcraft

WoW: Ghost servers are threatening again - time for new mergers?

WoW is dying! Headlines like this have been around for many years. Every time Blizzard announced the player numbers and there were a few less heroes in Azeroth, the doomsayers prophesied the imminent end of the successful MMORPG. As is well known, however, they were all wrong about that, because WoW still exists and enjoys a not to be despised player base. The immense success of WoW Classic may also have brought one or two players to Battle for Azeroth. Nevertheless, it cannot be denied that the number of players has decreased over the past few years. You don't have to be a psychic or an analyst to see that. Although Blizzard no longer publishes official player numbers, more or less accurate figures can be determined via the Arsenal and various external websites. However, most active players don't need these numbers at all. A look at friend lists, guilds or their own server is often enough to see that Boralus and Dazar'alor have become much emptier. And that poses significant problems for some guilds and players.

Empty servers

As already mentioned, Blizzard does not give us any current player numbers. And these would be irrelevant anyway. Because it doesn't matter how many people play WoW, but how many are on your own server. What use are three million other players if your own server or server network is threatened with extinction? The number of active players on a server can be found out relatively well thanks to the arsenal. For example, wowprogress.com makes use of this data. Every guild in which at least one player has killed a raid boss is recorded and read out. Thanks to the achievement system, twinks can also be assigned to the respective players, which gives us a rough overview of the players per server.

While there are over twelve thousand players on the largest German servers, such as Antonidas and Blackmoore, there are less than a thousand players on smaller servers like Lordaeron/Tichondrius. In total, there are 37 servers or server networks in German-speaking countries. More than two-thirds of them don't even have three thousand players. On some servers, the entrance to the Ny'alotha raid is completely deserted even at dusk. Source: buffed


Current player numbers in WoW

On the wowprogress.com page you can see the approximate numbers of active players on the servers. However, this data is not completely accurate. They only include players who have either killed a boss in the raid themselves, or are in a guild where a player has killed a boss. Guildless players are not included, nor are guilds whose members have nothing at all to do with raiding. However, for these players, the population on their server is not quite as relevant as it is for raiding guilds or raiders.

  • Antonidas 13,026
  • Blackmoore 12,642
  • Blackhand 12,507
  • Blackrock 11,177
  • Thrall 9,683
  • Eredar 7,095
  • Alleria (compound) 4,718
  • Frostwolf 3,969
  • Aegwynn 3,827
  • Malfurion (Compound) 3,686
  • Garrosh (Compound) 3,055
  • Anetheron (Compound) 2,819
  • Destromath (Compound) 2,810
  • Onyxia (Compound) 2,632
  • Dun Morogh (compound) 2,579
  • Anub'arak ( compound) 2,539
  • Arthas (compound) 2,516
  • Mal'Ganis (compound) 2,366
  • Khaz'goroth (compound) 2,336
  • Madmortem (compound) 2,228
  • Alexstrasza (compound) 2,192
  • Perenolde (compound) 2,084
  • Lothar (compound) 2,061
  • Area 52 ( compound) 1,986
  • The Aldor 1,959
  • Cult of the Damned (compound) 1,953
  • Ysera (Compound) 1,856
  • Aman'Thul 1,819
  • Azshara (Compound) 1,705
  • The Silver Hand (Compound) 1,536
  • Circle of Cenarius (Compound) 1,526
  • The Night's Watch (compound) 1,491
  • Kargath (Compound) 1,457
  • Tirion (Compound) 1,278
  • The Dalaran Council (Compound) 1,271
  • Gilneas (compound) 1,249
  • Lordaeron (compound) 909

End of expansion to blame?

Of course, one must always keep in mind that we are in the final phase of an expansion. Fewer people traditionally play in this than at the beginning and middle of the expansion. Many have seen all the content, finished the story and defeated the final boss, and then take a break until the adventures continue with the next content. With the launch of Shadowlands, the servers will naturally fill up again a bit, which will ease the situation a bit in many places. On the very empty servers, however, this will probably not be more than a drop in the bucket. Especially since you also have to consider that some players who are not tied to a guild might switch to another server when they return. One that offers more teammates.


Migration in WoW

No activity in chat for hours? On some servers this is the normal case. Source: buffed The past few years have shown quite clearly that a large number of players prefer to be on servers that are well utilized. While medium and smaller servers became smaller and smaller over time, the number of players on servers like Blackhand or Aegwynn was able to remain reasonably constant, even though the number of players decreased there as well. Because, of course, players also stopped playing WoW (buy now € 14.99 ) there over the years. However, the stream of heroes who switched from other servers kept the population at a higher level. Of course, this causes further problems on the smaller servers. For these lose not only quitting players, but also those who prefer to be on a full server. This accelerates the downsizing in the affected alliances, sometimes dramatically. But what are actually advantages of large servers?


Boundaries between servers

In the course of the expansions, the borders between the servers were softened more and more. Whether quests or mythical dungeons - most of the content can be done with players from other realms. Even normal and heroic raids work with players from different realms. Thanks to the community feature, it is now even possible to create and organize cross-server communities. However, there are still some very drastic restrictions.
For example, no trading between servers is possible. Neither directly from character to character, nor via the auction house. This makes it much harder to get certain materials on low-populated servers, for example. Not for nothing did the top guilds transfer characters across the servers at the start of Ny'alotha to buy the best random epics everywhere. This would hardly have been possible on their own server alone. And even giving a buddy with whom you play Mythic-Plus dungeons an enchantment, a vial, or a gem is simply not possible. Of course, a shared guild and its guild bank is also limited to a single server (or server group). And last but not least, this also applies to mythical raids. They can only be visited across servers a few weeks or months after release, when the Hall of Fame is full for both factions.


Interaction = same server

If you seriously want to play together with others, you can't get around the fact that you have to live on the same server as your friends or guild mates. And this is where we have another problem. If you meet someone through random raids or the dungeon finder, they're most likely from one of the four or five big servers, where almost half of the active players are. Now, if you want to play more closely with your newfound friend, they have to go to your server or you have to go to theirs. But who leaves their home server to switch to a potential ghost server? Without knowing exact numbers, we are quite sure that in most cases you will play together on the bigger server. Why not? After all, a large server doesn't offer any disadvantages, does it?


Anonymity on large servers

Of course, full servers do not only offer advantages. Especially the high anonymity due to many players is a disadvantage in some eyes and an often mentioned reason when it comes to why you want to stay on your small server. You know each other, know the guilds and many players. Knows about their quirks and usually gets along well. A bit like in WoW Classic. On large servers, on the other hand, the gray mass dominates. On Lordaeron/Tichondrius, for example, if you fall out with one of the two big guilds, you'll probably never see the inside of a mythical raid again. On Blackhand, on the other hand, players simply move on to the next guild, which leads to a much higher fluctuation. Very few groups on Antonidas and the like play through an entire expansion with the same 20 players. Three to four new faces per week or month is more the norm. Guilds on smaller servers, on the other hand, have a hard time finding new players. However, the inhibition threshold to leave these guilds is also higher, which is why the core of the guilds there has often been the same for many years. If you and your friends are not on the same server, all sorts of problems will arise. Source: buffed

More server mergers necessary?

Let's get back to the original question of whether or not further server mergers are necessary after six years. Of course, this question cannot be answered across the board for all servers and certainly not for all players. The large German-language servers still have a population that can't be faulted, even though player numbers have declined slightly there as well. So if you moved in the past or started directly there, you currently have less players around you than at the time of the last server mergers, but still enough. But how does it look like on the smaller servers? We have therefore taken a look at the server populations shortly before the launch of Warlords of Draenor, when the current mergers were decided and carried out. Since this data is no longer fully available, we looked at the amount of active guilds that were able to defeat at least one boss in the content and compared that to the current Ny'alotha raid. Of course, these numbers are not very concrete, as there are many imponderables. For example, most raids today have more than ten players (whereas back then, over 80 percent of raids were in 10-player mode), so the number should naturally be somewhat lower. Still, the picture is pretty clear, as you can see in the table below.

In the

absence of population numbers back then, if you look at the amounts of guilds that defeated at least a single boss on any difficulty level then and now, the picture is clear. Currently, even on merged servers, there are fewer active guilds than on the individual servers BEFORE the merge. We have randomly selected a few servers for you, but the numbers look similar on the others.

Active raid guilds:

Server Before the merger Current (incl. connected servers)
Antonidas 826 333
Thrall 495 278
Lordaeron 110 30
Arthas 104 49
The Dalaran council 98 37
Ysera 79 55

Server mergers long overdue

At the latest, mythical raids require you to be on a server. Source: buffed On most servers, there are less than half as many guilds active today as there were before the server merger. However, this also applies to the large servers like Antonidas, but is less problematic there due to the still high number. On small server mergers, there are only a few dozen guilds raiding today. And these are spread across all difficulty levels, from small after-work guilds that only knock out the first two or three bosses in normal mode to hardcore guilds that really clean up in mythical mode. However, it should also be taken into account that for a large number of players, raiding is no longer the main focus, but has been replaced by the Mythic-Plus dungeons. Nevertheless, the numbers probably allow us to make the following statement: If server mergers were considered sensible at the time, then further mergers are now more than overdue.


Further mergers

The realm merger should not be a big problem from a technical point of view, but it would certainly cost a lot of work and money. Players who stop playing WoW due to a lack of players also put pressure on the balance sheet. In addition, it would seem quite strange if large servers were to stand alone while up to ten servers were put into a network elsewhere. And connecting a tiny server to Aegwynn or Blackhand would feel kind of strange. However, in our eyes, that would probably still be better than completely extinct servers.


Why not a mega server?

To put all German-speaking players on a common server, there are still far too many people playing WoW. All of them in a common capital would quickly bring even the most powerful servers to their knees. Especially since WoW is not necessarily known for coping well with many characters in one spot. However, the developers have also shown what is possible in the past year. The magic word here is layering. This was used in WoW Classic to cope with the enormous amount of players that were on the move in the first few weeks. In this case, the characters play on one server, but still in different layers. So the developers can regulate the number of characters around you quite well, without having the disadvantages of different servers. And the problem of the limited number of semi-sounding names could be circumvented as it has already been done on the merged servers. With an "-AlterServerName" after the actual name.


Remove server boundaries completely?

Another possibility would be to completely remove all currently existing server boundaries. This would be almost equal to the mega server from a gameplay point of view. If we can invite players from other servers to our guild, trade with them, and master any content in the game, then it doesn't matter if they are located on a different server than we are. Only the different trade and general channels in the chat would then possibly be left as the last separation.


An arrow in the own knee

Server changes represent a solid source of revenue for Blizzard. Source: buffed Why Blizzard doesn't just do that? Well, we don't know the exact answer, of course. But there are a few arguments that are often used, which can't be dismissed out of hand. For example, Blizzard earns a not exactly insignificant amount of money with the character services, which also include changing servers. For example, it costs 25 euros to move your char to another server. If an entire guild with all its players changes, the amounts quickly add up to make you dizzy. With a mega server or even more merged servers, this source of income would suddenly cease to yield anything, or at least significantly less. Another reason could actually be technical complications. Back in 2017, while we were playing Legion, the developers communicated in the official forums that they were considering further server mergers, but that there would be some technical difficulties to solve. After that, however, nothing ever came from Blizzard again. Either they were satisfied with the situation (which looked much better in Legion), or they were working on another implementation - for example, the mega server we mentioned.


Conclusion

If Blizzard does not intervene soon, we are threatened with real ghost servers in the near future, where no decent interaction is possible anymore. With a bit of luck, these servers will make it to Shadowlands, where the player base will increase a bit, but after that it looks bleak. While there will continue to be players who don't care about their environment or who are very fond of rather empty servers, the trend in numbers indicates that there aren't very many of them. Whether Blizzard solves this problem with further mergers, an abolition of the server boundaries or a massive mega server, we don't really care in the first place. The main thing is that something happens. Because, and we're probably all in agreement on this, nobody wants to have completely orphaned WoW servers.

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