One of the good things about WoW is that Blizzard never deletes old characters, and Blizzard allows to have up to 10 or so characters on each server. However, each character's name is unique per server.
I wonder if this combination of factors will reach a boiling point as Cataclysm approaches. It is getting harder and harder to find a name for a new character. Instead it's a continuous round of "That name is not available" until you finally hit some acceptable combination. I think this factor has contributed to the large amounts of odd names and non-standard characters used these days.
Over 5 years worth of names have been locked away. And that might present a problem when Cataclysm hits. With two new races and a large overhaul of level 1-60, people are going to be making lots of new characters which will require new names.
Maybe it's time that Blizzard starts looking into ways to free up some of the names that are gathering dust. Deleting characters is excessive. But maybe Blizzard could unlock the name of any character under level 40 and that has not been logged in for 4 months. Anyone could take the name, and if the old character logs on, she will have to choose a new name.
I was skeptical at first, but I really like the way Cryptic handles names. They use "characterName@accountName". In-game and on nameplates only the Character Name is displayed, while the full name is shown in the chatbox. Though, the character name is emphasized and the account name dulled. To friend someone or send tells, you use the account name.
It's really nice to be able to just create a new character with the exact name you want, and not have to play "That name is not available" roulette.