It's pretty cool to see this much participation, and many good points have been made for either point of view! Thank you so much for that.
Let me say this first, I never asked or wanted to tell a new (or old) player where they "should" play, but give them information to make a more informed decision where they think they'd rather "want to" play. But most importantly, not choose one thing over the other because of misinformation or false assumptions.
The game has no goal, I guess that's correct more or less. So the goal is simply to play the game in a way, so that you enjoy playing it. If player retention only relied on adding new content, ... there's only so much "new" you can add and you keep bloating your game. So yes, you have to find things you enjoy doing, and this is probably the best solution for Wurm as a perpetually running persistent world. But that's also beyond the scope of this topic.
One thing that often comes up is, that a new players is utterly useless on the old cluster. It's pointed out that under that assumption, eventually a "new player" will also be "utterly useless" on the new cluster. I think neither is true, because you wouldn't be the only new player, there are players at every stage of character development. You assume you're only useful if you're at the top, or rush towards it.
It's not like every ancient elder being with 99.9 in everything is omnipotently looming over you to compete with you in everything, and stopping you from making a name for yourself with what you do. Sure, there are people who are on top of a market, but it was their goal and they "worked hard" to get there and are still putting effort in being active with what they do. Nothing stops you from working towards a goal you feel like achieving.
And if you want to compete on the market, don't unrealistically expect to compete with the high-end quality market as a new character. Of course I won't buy a 30 QL weapon off of you, I'm not the customer you have to cater to at your character's st(age), it's other newer players. Of course Gumbo can offer 97+ QL weapons... albeit for a price, and could with only two improving actions bump a 1 QL item to 35 QL, but he's not in the market of making 30 QL weapons. Then if course, if your mindset is "I need to have 97+ QL items because they exist and nothing less", nobody can help you with that, I guess.
And what do people mean when they say, they want to make a name for themselves? You can't really make a name for yourself just because your makers mark is on some item. I don't think anybody would give two green apples if I dropped a pile of 99 QL mallets with my name on it so they know I spent too much time with carpentry related activities, then waltz into a bar and everybody gasps and goes like "WOAH! It's Ulviirala, that legendary carpenter!". I bet 99% of people who know me in-game haven't got a single clue about my skills but they're at least somewhat fond of me (I hope ).
Elwood didn't get "famous" for having 100 skill in carpentry, he's known for collecting wood scrap like a mad man, but also has carpentry skills trained up. "Making a name" to me is more of a social thing, and the player base is small enough that you can certainly achieve that with what you enjoy doing (see: the game has no goals but your own), and not necessarily because you spent 10 hours a day grinding to get 99 Milking skill.
Well okay I'll be honest... I'd be impressed if you were grinding Milking for 10 hours a day, and constantly talk about you, I bet even my own cows would gossip about it in Local.
Even as a new player you can participate in all content that is publicly available. Fight a dragon? Sure you can join, you might not land a hit in combat but no content is barred or gated away, just because your Fighting skill is 1.00, your mere presence can be a meaningful participation. Rifts? Same thing, you might have to be a bit more careful and on your toes but you can come and see if it's something for you. Whatever other player-run event, you probably qualify to participate, or perhaps stage your own?
Amata has made some extremely good and objective points I think, actually everyone who seriously contributed to the thread has made very good points, either objectively or subjectively. But I think we have to agree that either cluster can be a viable choice depending on what you're looking for. Some points are simply invalid as the new cluster ages, but I think we can still hammer out a few bulletin points to get a new player to where they feel best suited for to enjoy their game, and not flat-out say that you have to play Northern because it's the new cool thing.