Blizzard has revealed some more information on the upcoming Connected Realms feature, set to hit their World of Warcraft MMO sometime after the introduction of patch 5.4. The new feature will consist of a set of two or more standard realms that have been permanently and seamless “linked." Servers that are linked will operate as if one large server, with the ability to "join the same guilds, access a single Auction House, run the same Raids and Dungeons, and join other adventurers to complete quests."
As WoW has evolved, we’ve seen players naturally gravitate toward a subset of very active realms, leaving behind lower-populated realms. Due to the massively multiplayer nature of World of Warcraft, certain kinds of gameplay experiences simply aren’t well-suited to a low-pop realm. By allowing players from two or more lower-pop realms to play together, we hope to give more players more opportunities to participate in group-oriented activities, helping to foster a more vibrant in-game community.
Connected Realms also allow us to link populations in a way that’s not disruptive to players, and that doesn’t negatively impact players’ sense of identity and character. Other alternatives such as merging realms would require us to force character name changes if there were conflicts, and could lead to confusion for returning players who’d log in to find their realm missing from the realm list. Some players also feel strong ties to their realm’s name or history, and we don’t want to erase that.
Currently Blizzard has yet to decide which servers will be connected to this new feature, though did reveal that they will only connect to servers of the same type (PvE, PvP etc).
No timeline has yet been given on when exactly realms will start being connected, though Blizzard expects them to go live sometime after the introduction of patch 5.4, which is looking to be coming out very soon and will feature the Siege of Orgrimmar among other new content additions. Check out the full blog post
for more on Connected Realms.