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Lost Ark developers race to relieve pressure on servers in wake of huge launch

New region ‘only way to accommodate more players’

Crowds cheer at a jousting tournament in Lost Ark Image: Smilegate RPG/Amazon Games
Oli Welsh is senior editor, U.K., providing news, analysis, and criticism of film, TV, and games. He has been covering the business & culture of video games for two decades.

Lost Ark, the massively multiplayer game taking Steam by storm, will receive a new server region in an attempt to alleviate long login queues for European players.

The game has had an explosive launch weekend that saw it become the second most-played game of all time on Steam, going by peak concurrent players. At 1.33 million players, it narrowly beat the peak numbers of Steam stalwarts Counter-Strike: Global Offensive and Dota 2, but fell some way short of the record 3.3 million players recorded by PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds in early 2018.

But the question is: How many of those million-plus players were actually playing the game? Although Lost Ark seems to have had a smooth launch in the Americas, European servers have been beset with very, very long login queues. At any one time over the weekend, hundreds of thousands of European players were waiting to be able to play the game.

(I can attest to this from personal experience: Trying to log into the game in London on Saturday afternoon, I found most servers had queues between 8,000 and 13,000 players, and it took me over an hour to log on. Fortunately, I had the Triangle Strategy demo to hand.)

Developer Smilegate and Amazon, which publishes Lost Ark in the West (it has been available in South Korea since late 2019), have announced a plan to create a new European server region to alleviate the overcrowding. But this plan is not without controversy for the game’s frustrated European audience.

“Please note that this will be a distinct new region (separated from Central Europe) without cross-region play availability,” noted the developers. “This also means that region-wide features, such as your Royal Crystal and Silver balances from Central Europe will not be accessible in the new European region. The new region will be ideal for players who have not yet created their character or haven’t otherwise committed to stay on their existing server.”

In other words, players who have already invested serious time, unlocked rewards, or established communities in the game will see no benefit from the new server region (beyond fewer new players trying to create characters on their servers). In Lost Ark, you cannot transfer characters from one server to another, and while some resources and activities are shared across servers, nothing can be shared between characters or players from different server regions.

Smilegate and Amazon insisted that a new server region was the only possible solution. “Due to the game’s architecture this is the only way to accommodate more players in Europe,” they said in their statement.

Long login queues at the launch of a new online game or major expansion are nothing new, of course, and usually improve within a week or two. But Lost Ark’s launch issues do seem to expose an inflexibility in the game’s setup, as well as a discrepancy in its American and European launch strategies.

Some members of the Lost Ark community protested what they saw as an underestimation of the game’s European audience. One Reddit user pointed out that North America has 22 servers spread across two regions (with an additional nine servers for South America), while the single Central European region has 19 servers. Another noted that server maintenance, events and communications all seem to be organized on a schedule that doesn’t work well for those in European time zones.

In recompense for the disruption, Smilegate and Amazon announced that they would make a gift package, including a new mount and more, available to all players. The gift will be available after the new server region launches, and anyone who plays the game before March 1 will get it.