Tobold's Blog
Friday, January 05, 2007
Burning Crusade queue prediction

I was playing on US servers before the European servers opened up, so I have a cancelled US account. Due to this I just received a mail from Blizzard stating: "Blizzard Entertainment proudly invites you to return to the World of Warcraft on January 16th and journey beyond the Dark Portal, where an infinity of new experiences await you. Given the high volume of returning subscribers we expect when The Burning Crusadeâ„¢ expansion goes live, if you are planning a return to Azeroth, we recommend reactivating your account as soon as possible in order to avoid the expected rush of launch-day activations."

So Blizzard expects the same thing that I mentioned before, a large number of "returning subscribers", and an overloaded account management server. But how is that going to affect existing subscribers? My prediction is long waiting queues on logon, depending on the age of your server.

I did a Google search to try to find how many copies of World of Warcraft were sold, but couldn't get any numbers. Blizzard is only ever talking about their 7.5 million current subscribers, and never about the total number of copies sold. Because if you knew how many millions bought WoW and you know how many are playing, you also know how many people quit World of Warcraft. And after over 2 years there must be millions of people having quit the game already. And there is a strong chance for them to resubscribe for the expansion, especially if the reason they left was that they got bored of the previous level 60 end-game.

The problem is that the resubscribers won't be evenly distributed over all servers. They will want to continue their old characters on their old servers. Even if they want to play a new draenei or blood elf, they will want to do so on their old server, so they can send money and items from their old characters to the new one. And obviously a 2-year old server has a lot more of quitters a.k.a. potential resubscribers than a server that just opened 3 months ago.

Pulling some hypothetical numbers out of my hat, lets say that the average player plays World of Warcraft for one year. That means every year there are as many people quitting a server as there are playing on it. Now lets say half of the people who quit do resubscribe on the 16th. That would result in the population of a 2-year old server doubling, and the population of a 1-year old server going up by 50%. A brand new server has no resubscribers at all. Meanwhile Blizzard is increasing server capacities by 25% for all servers. Which means the new servers have more than enough capacity, but the capacity increase is not sufficient for the original servers.

As my "main" undead priest is on such an original European server, there is a high chance that I will experience long waiting queues in January and February. After some time some people will give up and move to a less populated server. Or they will discover that the Burning Crusade didn't solve the issues they had with WoW when they quit in the first place, and quit again. If I wasn't in a guild, I would consider doing a paid character transfer to a very new server now, and avoid the queues. But I prefer to stay with my guild. If the queues get too bad on my old server, I can still play the level 60 human priest I made on a younger server.
"If I wasn't in a guild, I would consider doing a paid character transfer to a very new server now, and avoid the queues."

Yes, queues are a pain and doing a transfer is a tempting option if it weren't for guilds and friends.

Anyway doing a Paid Character Transfer isn't a solution and as a customer I say that is evil. Why do I have to pay extra money to Blizzard to resolve their problems? If I move to another server who guarantees me that new server won't have queues too in the future? Blizzard alerts new users if they are selecting a congested server so if they get queues is their fault. But if I'm an old player in that server I get queues too and none advised me.
I got that same email this afternoon and felt the same way - the login server is going to be hell.

I even considered firing up the old account again, but eventually was turned off from the idea.
There are already login queues on a lot of servers during primetime. I'm on one of the original US servers and hit a queue of about 300 when I was logging it at 8 server time. I'm afraid to see what it will be when the expansion comes out. Even if I choose to level up my 32 druid alt or continue pvp on my 60 warrior, I still have to deal with the fallout of the expansion. I don't like that.
As I commented on another post, I had a 6 minute log-on wait in the queue a couple of nights ago, the first such queue I've seen in months on my current server. I don't know how old my server is, but it is probably at least 2 years old.

That concerns me because I'm actually working on a 30-ish priest who will not reach 60 before the BC release, and doesn't spend much time in instances (teaming up with my wife's first character and questing). So theoretically I should not be adversely impacted by the BC new rolls (Blood Elf, Draenai) in new starting areas, or the race to 70 in Outland... if I can even log on, that is.

As I said before, I will be quite displeased if I can't even log on.

Short term, who should have log-on priority?
A faithful customer who plays regularly?
A new customer?
A person coming back after 'retiring' for a while?
Blizz has a solution: "Everybody get in line."

As Tobold points out, Blizz is stuck between a rock and a hard place, short term and long.
Blizz is ramping up new servers, but they will probably not eliminate long waits on older servers because of returning players. Ramp up too many new servers, and you've wasted money and spread your player population too thin; too few servers, and your paying customer base will be upset with queues and lag and crashes.

Long term, one has to think that the 'new' will wear off, and some people will quit playing, while the server populations will probably even out as players are enticed to move to a new server with the combination of long queues plus free move incentives.
Every night this week (except Monday) I've encountered queues on Kilrogg (west coast US server). Tuesday I logged in early'ish (for me) around 7pm and had a 250+ queue and it took maybe 15 minutes for me to log in. On the plus side, now I know that 7 "Blizzard" minutes is equal to 15 "Earth" minutes :)

Last night I logged in at close to 9pm, and had a queue of about 70 people in front of me.

Before when I first turned on my PC in the evening I'd check my email and read a few blogs before logging in to WoW. Now I log in and secure my place in the queue, then check my email.
600+ for the past week on my server (Garona), which is a bit more than an hour wait. My habit now is to come home, chat with the wife a bit, wander to the PC, crank it up, log in to the queue, then go eat dinner, review homework, etc. By the time I get back to the PC an hour or two later, it's usually time to log in, or close to it.

I can only imagine it getting worse, although Garona is one of the servers getting a free transfer right now.
I'm on Argent Dawn, one of the original original servers (one of the first 12-16, whatever). Last night I tried signing on at 10pm EST (local time for the server). There was a queue of 450+.

I may go into withdrawal (again) when I can't play after TBC comes out.
My server, Draka, has had horrible queues for the last few weeks. It is not uncommon to have 750+ queue during close-to-peak hours, and 900+queue during prime time (US times). Apparently Draka remained on the "recommended" server list for far too long for new accounts. Blizzard did open up free transfers this weekend, and I am currently torn about it. I like my guild, but I am also very tired of the very long queues. I also expect our server to get a significant spike in activity for BC, since it opened around the holidays in 2005. I believe it will hit the "sweet spot" of reactivated accounts.

I'd love to see a blog entry on the pros and cons of server transfer if you have some input :D.

For the record, my server is Rexxar (though I've played a bit on Kirin Tor and Khaz Modan in the past). Sounds like I have it good, with only one rather short queue this week. Unfortunately, I only expect server traffic to get worse in the run-up to the BC release, and the week of the BC release will likely degenerate into chaos. Hopefully Blizz can get / keep things under control, but it will be a miracle if the BC release week goes off without long queues and restarts and disconnects and crashes and lag.
Isnt the queue time based on your characters location. If your character is in Org or Stormwind your queue time will be longer than a character in a place with vary little activity...
Our characters are on Illidan aka Illadown. Recently the queue has returned and is growing during primetime to late evening. I predict nasty waits and lag for TBC.

And I don't think the queue is based on location. We used to have people get caught in the queue trying to log on for raids and their bodies were still in the instance from the previous nite. They seemed to wait in line, calling out the progress, just live everyone else trying to get on the game.
My prediction for the Burning Crusade queue times:

Longest queue screenshotted legitimately and posted on the internet: 11 hours

Longest queue allegedly screenshotted and posted on the internet: 26 hours

Longest queue jokingly photoshopped and posted on the internet: 7 years
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