Cross-realm zones (colloquially known as CRZ) is a game design tool created to "fix the issue of having a ton of players at max-level, but lower level zones being dead." CRZ operates by putting players from multiple realms into the same "instance" of a particular zone to make it "feel active and alive."
Currently, cross-realm zoning only occurs between realms within +/-3 hours time zone difference.
Certain zones that are not affected by the feature, including:
- Realms are only cross-realm zoned with realms of the same type (Normal or RP)
- This feature is not intended to affect the fishing tournaments' winners, though you will still have to compete cross-realm for fishing pools.
- Low populated zones include most of the factions' major cities and are currently part of the system, even though it was stated they would not be.
With the exception of zones that are never cross-realm (notably Stormwind and Orgrimmar but only on RP realms), generally all members of a cross-realm group will be phased to occupy the same copy of a zone. The rules governing which copy of the zone the group sees are complicated. Roughly the selection operates as explained below.
- In the following rules, home zone refers to the copy of the zone that a character would see while ungrouped.
- Generally all characters on one realm or group of connected realms share a home zone.
- Due to cross-realm zones some characters from different (unconnected) realms will also share a home zone.
- A newly-created group (ie with a single member) starts by using the leader's home zone.
- From this point forward, group leadership no longer affects phasing.
- Phasing to a different copy of a zone may only be triggered by a change in group membership (a member joining or leaving).
- If one group member exceeds the level of anyone else in group, the group will phase to his home zone.
- If two or more group members with different home zones are tied for maximum level, the copy housing the most max-level characters is used.
- In the case of a tie in the previous rule, the zone copy housing the most characters of any level (but ignoring level 1 toons) is used for the group.
- If there is still a tie, no phasing occurs and the group remains on the most recently-selected copy of the zone.
- The Online/Offline status of group members does not affect phasing decisions.
- Patch 7.0.3 (2016-07-19): Cross-realm zones have been enabled for the continent of Draenor.
- Patch 6.0.2 (2014-10-14): Cross-realm zones have been enabled for the continent of Pandaria.
- Hotfix (2012-09-20): Cross-realm zones no longer bring together players who are more than 3 timezones apart.
- Patch 5.0.4 (2012-08-28): Added.