Server merges are nothing new to MMOs. Sometimes they happen well after a game has launched, after the luster has faded and are simply the hallmark of a game that’s entering its inevitable twilight years.
But more often these days, we’re seeing heavily hyped new MMOs that launch, go for a few months, and then “merge” – or whatever they choose to call it – servers. Star Wars: The Old Republic is the latest culprit, but it wasn’t the first (Warhammer Online, Age of Conan, DC Universe Online, etc.) and won’t be the last.
So why do devs do it? Are they really so stupid as to overestimate the popularity of their product?
Maybe a little bit, but if you were playing one of those games the day it launched, you probably faced some egregious queue times, and server merges were the last thing on your – or the devs’ – minds.
So devs are faced with a dilemma: to pump up the server count at launch and make sure everyone gets to play or to keep it low and think of the future, even if it angers players on day one.
That’s not a small consideration, either. The fiery nerd rage that ensues when people have been waiting to play a game for months or years and then can’t the microsecond servers go live makes the surface of the sun feel like Alaska.
The ideal situation is probably to go with a “serverless” system, like Guild Wars 2 or The Secret World, but if that’s not an option, what should devs do? Keep the number servers low and weather the storm of launch-day frustrations? Or make sure everyone can play at launch and deal with the repercussions of low-pop servers later?
Let us know what you think!