World of Warcraft Plans Upgrade to Fix Performance Woes

World of Warcraft says it is planning to upgrade its authentication servers to address performance problems that have plagued the popular online game in recent weeks. With more than 6 million subscribers, World of Warcraft has been struggling with login problems since the game's authentication system crashed on April 7.

"For several months now we've researched potential authentication upgrades and evaluated how those system changes could be implemented with minimal impact on our service," said a message posted Thursday on the WoW forums by game operator Blizzard Entertainment. "We recently decided on a specific authentication solution and are currently taking the necessary steps to implement the associated hardware and software. The new platform should help alleviate the login issues that players have experienced, including both forum- and game-login processes."

The performance problems have also been visible in the performance of the web site:

World of Warcraft web site performance

A dynamically updating chart of World of Warcraft's web site performance is available. Netcraft offers a web site performance monitoring service that provides similar charts, along with e-mail alerts when an outage occurs.

Many World of Warcraft users welcomed the announcement of impending upgrades, expressing relief that Blizzard was taking steps to address the login problems. Others noted that the upgrade had only been announced and not implemented, and were skeptical that improvements were imminent.

World of Warcraft is a massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) based on Blizzard's Warcraft series. With monthly subscription plans ranging from $12.99 to $14.99, a user base of 6 million would generate revenue of at least $77.9 million per month - or more than $104,000 an hour. While MMORPG credits are often measured in extra time rather than cash refunds, that's a substantial "cost of downtime."