I’ve found a list of the first European WoW servers that are candidates for being ‘connected realms’. Details of what this means are in a Blizzard dev blog-post (link to it on WoW Europe forums). In essence it’s a server merge without actually merging them, an interesting approach for sure. There’s no need to deal with character name or guild name conflicts. The communities on the servers should be relatively undisrupted from that perspective.
The obvious advantages are the ability to group, run dungeons, raid etc without needing Real ID cross-realm invites. It’s unclear from the dev post whether we’ll be seeing players from the connected realm out in the open world, I would guess so? The auction house for the server pair will also be united, that should help to invigorate the choice of items in some cases.
Moonglade, the EU RP server I’ve called home since 2007, isn’t on the initial list so I won’t experience this for a while. I can only hope that Blizzard will be sensible, where possible, over server types. According to the realm list, there are six English language RP-PVE servers for Europe (Argent Dawn, Darkmoon Faire, Earthen Ring, Moonglade, Steamwheedle Cartel and The Sha’tar). So it’ll be interesting to see how those four servers are paired up when the time comes.
Other MMOs developers haven’t been in the luxurious position to handle this as sensitively; if you have only one RP server left how can you merge it with another to address the population issue without potentially disrupting the roleplay communities in the process? I’ll keep an eye on how the shard unifications for Rift to see what happens to the Argent community (Rift forums merge announcement).