When UO started throwing in expansions, the old worlds very quickly started clearing out. Ole Britannia (or whatever the capital is) went from a bustling urban center to an absolute ghost town, made all the more eerie as the wandering NPC robots grossly outnumbered humans for the first time in my experience.
That's happening now in WoW. Ironforge is nearly empty... auction houses, banks, city square, all nearly empty on my server, even if n=1 nights played for now. I couldn't tell if my "new video card" was providing much better performance or if there simply wasn't anything to render!
This should concern Blizzard. The creation of a virtual ghetto is a bad thing. Maybe Ironforge can add a bingo?
Blizzard needs to ensure that expansions are backwards compatible, not so much that expansionless folk like myself can go to the new lands, nor even that we should be provided access to the new trainers, etc, but players with expansions should continue to flow through old hotspots (possibly with new buildings in cities accessible only if you have the expansions, etc) so that the communities at least do not give the impression of being quite so perfectly cleaved.
Perhaps it will hit an equilibrium at some point, but without adding new zones in the old world, (even without knowing what's in the Outland) I somewhat doubt Ironforge will ever be the impressive hub it was before.
It's like virtual urban flight. I find that fascinating. I really wish there were a way to study these things with Blizzard's data. I suspect it would be incredibly interesting to attempt to model it.
That is the nerdiest statement you've ever made....
(except I think it would be interesting too :(
UO used to have an in-house researcher, which was pretty neat. He made some interesting presentations regarding the move from a closed economy to a faucet/drain system (monsters put in dough when you kill 'em, vendors pull it back out with horribly useful items like, well, hair die). The move was pretty clearly for the stimulus provided by switching from a simulation to narrative model.
That is, who wants to go out and adventure for hours if all you can make are shoes from frog leather -- and the market's saturated?!
I'm not surprised by the "Urban Flight" at all. When the auction houses opened in Darnassus and Stormwind, there was a bit of flight there as well. Fortunatly for the folks with "Playable Computers" (I can't imagine playing on a 1GHz w/ 500 MB of RAM and a 32 or 64 MB vid card) I'll bet that Ironforge is nearly cozy these days.