Originally, when I started playing World of Warcraft almost eight years ago, I was on a ‘medium’ populated realm. This was where my then-girlfriend Hari and her friends had her characters, so I joined her there.
Fast forward a few years, and following the release of the Cataclysm expansion my friends all jumped ship, to a high population realm. I followed a few weeks later, firstly with my main character and then one of my ‘alt’ characters, paying £15 each time for the privilege.
Being on a high population realm has its benefits – a very active economy on the auction house, lots of guilds to join, and plenty of people to group with. But recently the population has continued to grow, to the point where the realm servers were running at capacity. This means that players have to queue until enough other players log off, and at peak times on weeknights these queues could be as long as half an hour.
If I was able to get home from work early then this wouldn’t be such a problem, but I don’t get home until the start of the peak period. Consequently, it just wasn’t possible to quickly log in for a few minutes on an evening – I’d have to wait in a queue, and then once connected, not log out because I wouldn’t be able to get back on again.
And, by now, most of my friends who I used to play with have either quit the game, or gone to other realms. So, all in all, I had no real reason to stay on that realm.
Thankfully, Blizzard Entertainment are all too aware of the issue with the realm (and others in the same situation). The realm has been ‘locked’, to restrict the creation or paid transfer of characters, and they are offering free character transfers to other realms. I decided to take advantage of the latter; by now I had three characters on this realm (plus a low level bank character) and I didn’t want to spend £15 per character to go somewhere with greener grass.
There are some restrictions for free character transfers. First of all, they can only be between selected realms, so I had to choose one of four destination realms. WarcraftRealms.com is useful for population estimates, and so I picked the one with the highest population and best Horde to Alliance ratio. Since I would be moving to another Player-versus-Player (PvP) realm, I didn’t want to choose one where Horde characters significantly outnumbered Alliance – I’m a big, wet, useless scaredycat when it comes to PvP.
There are also eligibility criteria for your characters. There were three main characters I wanted to transfer: my paladin (my main since 2006), my priest, and a rogue which I’ve recently levelled up. These were all fine – I just had to ensure that they had empty mailboxes and no outstanding auctions. But I also had a ‘bank’ character which I used for storage. This character was too low level – characters need to be level 10 to be eligible, and my bank was level 1. So, I spent about half an hour levelling it up.
The next issue was that this character was also a guild leader, with a guild bank full of various crafting materials. Guild leader characters are ineligible for transfer; as this character was the only one in the guild, I made the decision to sell just about everything in the guild bank on the auction house. This took a few weeks, but eventually just about everything sold and it netted me a few thousand gold in the process. I then had to disband the guild.
Finally, there are also limits on how much gold characters can take with them when transferred, which vary by level. My three high level characters were fine, and well within the limits, but my bank character had way too much. Level 10 characters should have less than 300 gold; mine had more than ten times that, thanks to all of the auctions. Of course, this was easily solved by distributing the money amongst my other characters before I transferred them.
So, I made the transfer, and have been playing on my new realm ever since. I’m pleased that I don’t have to queue any more, and I’ve been able to find a reasonably nice and active guild to be a member of. It hasn’t cost me anything, and means I can play the game more often and get more value out of my £9 per month subscription. Indeed, I would not have bothered transferring my bank character had the transfer not been free. Generally speaking the transfers only take around an hour to complete, so there’s not much downtime away from the game either.
If you play on a realm with queues and are offered a free transfer, then unless you have ties with people on that realm, I’d definitely recommend moving. After all, you’re paying for the game – so why not make the most of it?