With more servers than most people can count, Blizzard has created a multitude of choices of places to play. Players then join either servers that they know someone on or that has a name that appeals to them. Both of these situations add to servers with high populations and make getting onto those servers for existing players more difficult. As time goes on, the situation gets worse, until Blizzard offers a free transfer to another server. However most players do not take the transfer as it requires organization with all their friends they loose all the knowledge they have about how their current server works (which guilds are good, Auction house pricing, etc, etc). This leads to many servers that are almost empty even on weekends, while others have waiting lists to get into.

The other balance issue that has been around since the launch of WoW has been the faction balance on servers. Since the dawn of time (ok, since the launch of WoW, but was anything really important before then?) the Alliance has outnumbered Horde on almost every server, sometimes drastically. Now with the launch of the Burning Crusade and the release of the Blood Elves, there are some new servers which have gone the complete opposite direction. So, you could select a busy server to join, only to get there to find out that it is the other faction that has players, not your faction.

Where's the balance between the servers and what should Blizzard do about it?

How bad is Server Load?

This is not a really simple question to answer as I do not have characters on every server, so can't see the extremes. I do have characters that I play of 4 different servers though, and can see huge differences between them. My main Horde server is of medium population and I rarely have issues getting on at any time I want. Only on US holidays do I get a waiting list sometimes. On this server though, I can not always find groups for what I would like to go on, or even a group for anything at times. There have been days recently where I have ended up playing for 2-3 hours fiddling around while looking for a group, before deciding it was now to late to run the instance I wanted to run. To make matters worse, I'm a priest! Which is normally in great demand for groups.

My main Alliance server is a High population server and has been locked down for new player creation several times. I constantly have issues logging in and usually have a wait list in the evening of 3-5 minutes. On weekends it can stretch to 10 minutes and on US holidays I have waited over 30-40 minutes to get online. Once I am on, I can generally find a group very quickly for almost anything (as long as its a level 70 run) and get through what I want and back off easily.

Should we really worry about this?

Seeing how slow it is to get a group on a medium population server I can only despair for the players on a low population server getting anything done outside of their guild runs. I also wonder how long these players will continue to put up with not being able to get groups when they want them. I also greatly fear that they will really start believing that this is what an MMO is all about.

I've ranted in the past that WoW is too solo friendly so will not go fully into that here, however it really needs to be mentioned. If players think that this is OK since this is their first MMO, how will they function in any other MMO they eventually move to if they do need to group in it? They will have learned horrid grouping and social skills here in WoW and not be able to function in other MMOs at all.

How bad is faction balance?

Faction balance really depends on your server. The original servers generally have Alliance outnumbering Horde around 2 or 3 to 1. I have seen a few that have the ideal 50/50 balance (but not many). Many of the new servers (released after Burning Crusade) have radically different numbers, sometimes as much as 10 to 1 in favor of the Horde. After all no once can turn down playing a sexy Blood Elf, or having a Horde Paladin.

The balance between factions plays a bigger role on PvP servers but does effect overall play on PvE servers as well. The obvious effect is on PvP servers where if you are the outnumbered faction, leveling and question outside of instances will be significantly more difficult. This is not always the case as anyone can be "griefed" on a PvP server, but is more common as the outnumbered faction.

On PvE servers you are at a disadvantage when you are outnumbered because the quest mobs, drops, etc will more than likely be farmed by the opposing faction. This can make is difficult to quest and level at peak server times.

With the addition of world PvP objectives to all the high level zones, you will also be at a disadvantage due to having a more difficult time obtaining the zone PvP bonus. This may seem minor, but can add up over time significantly, especially for zones with raids in them.

What are the issues that these problems create?

There are many other issues that arise from server population imbalances such as:

  • Players on low population servers getting frustrated that they can't find groups and leaving WoW
  • Players on low population servers not being able to develop grouping and social skills in the game
  • Players on low population servers not being able to obtain certain profession items or plans
  • Players on high population PVP servers never being able to quest because they are "ganked" all the time
  • Players on high population servers not being able to get quest items
  • Players on the lower population faction will have difficulty getting groups
  • Players on the lower population faction on a PvP server will rarely be able to do anything in contested zones
  • and many more...
What can Blizzard do?

There are many different options Blizzard could do to fix the situation. There has been very little discussion or information out there about this though, and I'm not even sure that Blizzard is even looking into it.

Just a few that pop into my mind are:

  • Consolidate low population servers
  • Do forced moves from Critically populated servers
  • Offer more server moves from critical servers to other servers and offer some incentive to get players to move
  • Upgrade hardware to allow more players per server without wait times to get in
  • Offer or force faction moves from one server to another
  • Offer free moves to any server a player wants that would better balance that servers faction
  • Disable new character creation by faction on one sided servers
  • and many more...
Messiah's Opinion

After thinking about this issue for a while I have some pretty strong opinions on it, like I do on most issues. First off, despite my constant complaining about various little things in WoW, I really do love the game and think Blizzard has done an amazing job of it. That said those little things (and everyone has their own list), really ticks me off most days. This is one of those issues.

I fought my way to the end of the game, and have TONS of things I still want to do. I am in one of the best guilds on my server. I have a good reputation and friends list. And I still can't find groups to do anything with, 50-75% of the time!!!! And this is on a medium population server. On my Alliance character (who I don't like nearly as much as my Horde character), I can find groups because its a higher population server, but have to wait to get on, and cant on some days when I want to play. To through another issue out there, on any Alt I try to level, I can't find groups because everyone is at max level.

Some players are also stuck on servers that are busy, however happen to be on the wrong side of the faction division and can either not find groups or are constantly harassed in PvP. You could join a busy server to ensure that you can get groups, only to find out your outnumber 5 to 1 and can never get anything done.

Something needs to be done to correct these issues.

At this point I would take almost anything that keeps my guild together, but allows me to get a group when and where I want it. I think that this is a big enough issue for most players that they would accept some pretty big changes to fix it. I would even take forced moves as long as Blizzard respected the guild groups.

The Messiah has spoken, now its you turn...


Should something be done to Balance the Servers?

* YES, Blizzard should force through some changes!
* YES,
but only if players get a choice!
* Potentially, but it has to be thought out very carefully
* NO, I think things are fine they way they are.
* I can't decide.



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Last Updated: Mar 29, 2016

About The Author

Byron 1
Byron has been playing and writing about World of Warcraft for the past ten years. He also plays pretty much ever other Blizzard game, currently focusing on Heroes of the Storm and Hearthstone, while still finding time to jump into Diablo III with his son.