How Badly did Blizzard Underestimate WoW: Classic's popularity?

If you have been under a proverbial gaming rock, then you might have missed the release of World of Warcraft: Classic. Weeks leading up to the fateful August 26th day, players across social media were sharing their anticipation, proudly announcing time taken off from work and posting pictures of their gaming bing preparations.

▲ The state of WoW: Classic servers at the time of this posting.

READ: Blizzard adds two, then three more servers to combat massive queues.

READ: Hundreds of Thousands of Players Try and Login to Classic WoW Servers: Chaos Ensues

But, a large percentage of those excited gamers never even got to log-in and play. When a server is listed as "Full" that means there is queue time before players can be able to join in. With average queue times anywhere between 2-5 hours (and a very unreliable estimation tool) and Blizzard's attempts at creating new servers doing little to combat the queues, a simple question arises.

Why weren't their more servers to begin with? 

An unprecedented number of gamers.

Game Director "Watcher" took to the official Blizzard forums to join in on a discussion questioning why Medium population servers still have queue times. Explaining how the old system used to work just fine before an "unprecedented" number of players queued up at the same, Watcher concludes that changes were needed to combat 20,000 players in the same queue.

In truth, the massive queues only exist because Blizzard underestimated the number of players interested in WoW: Classic. That, combined with a name reservation system that encouraged mass adoption of a few servers, it seems like this problem was not only avoidable but predictable. This sounds like a simplification of something

▲ These were the available servers during early name registration in early August -- only 4 were PvP servers compared to the dozens that exist now.

Of course, the first servers during name reservation would end up being the most full. Reserving your name emotionally commits you to play om that server and, in fact, many friend groups and old guildmates planned their WoW: Classic revival around these initial servers. Convincing old friends to re-subscribe and get organized again is no small feat, so it is proving difficult to convince players on these servers to change to other realms

Message from the Game Director

In another post, Game Director Watcher seems keenly aware of this frustration and posted an explanation:

I understand the frustration: Anticipating and planning around jumping back into this world we’ve all missed, only to be stuck in a long queue, is not the experience we want anyone to have.

But from the start of planning for this launch, we’ve tried to prioritize the long-term health of our realm communities, recognizing that if we undershot the mark in terms of launch servers, we could move quickly to add additional realms in the opening hours. But if we went out with too many servers, weeks or months down the line we’d have a much tougher problem to solve. While we have tools like free character transfers available as a long-term solution to underpopulated realms, everything about that process would be tremendously disruptive to realm communities, and so it’s something we want to avoid as much as possible.

Thus, we took the path of launching with few enough realms to still thrive in the event that our most conservative estimates ended up proving accurate, while having enough servers ready to activate at a moment’s notice if needed. And clearly they were, and are, needed.

We’ve released over 20 new realms worldwide so far since launch, and we’ll be up around the clock continuing to do so until everyone who wants to experience Classic is able to. But even still, as we bring new realms online in a given region, we wait for them to fill before opening new ones, because we want to make sure that each and every realm has a healthy population in the long term."

Blizzard is wise to worry about the long-term health of the game, but with the overwhelming popularity WoW: Classic is seeing in its early days, perhaps that worry was a little unfounded. It is old news to bring up (yet again) the now-infamous "You think you do, but you don't" fiasco, but the community can't help it.

The small amount of initial servers and developers public concern with players actually sticking around makes it seem like, still, after all this time, Blizzard doesn't actually grasp how many players want to play WoW: Classic for reasons other than a short nostalgia trip. Meanwhile, even retail WoW players are noticing the affect Classic is having on their in-game economies. As more players leave to play Classic, the value of retails auction house is dropping sharply.

Ultimately, this may all be a temporary hype and perhaps Blizzards is correct. Maybe, in a couple of weeks, servers will de-populate and the developer's gambit to ensure healthy servers will prove successful work. For now though, it isn't looking that way. Each server still has thousands of people waiting in the queue, and it isn't even the weekend yet.

EDIT: Blizzard has since announced that all realms will have their maximum player size increased.

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