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Ownership is Key

A study (published yesterday) from the University at Buffalo School of Management, which followed 173 players who were part of a large MMORPG community to figure out strategies in which to increase player loyalty/retention, concluded with what everyone who has actively played Ultima Online and/or Star Wars Galaxies (and/or MUDs) have known for (a) decade(s) or longer:

“It [the study] examined whether two different game-playing strategies were successful in producing loyal players.
One strategy found that giving players more control and ownership of their character increased loyalty. The second strategy showed that gamers who played cooperatively and worked with other gamers in “guilds” built loyalty and social identity.

“To build a player’s feeling of ownership towards its character, game makers should provide equal opportunities for any character to win a battle,” says Sanders. “They should also build more selective or elaborate chat rooms and guild features to help players socialize.”

It doesn’t take a brain-surgeon to figure out that this isn’t rocket-science:

  • Ownership is, has been and will continue to be a key ingredient to player retention.

Sources: The Escapist, University at Buffalo

2 Responses to “Ownership is Key”

  1. Babak says:

    While I agree with the general notion that giving players a sense of “ownership over their characters” (how much vaguer can it get!) helps with retention, the study, or at least the summary of the study states this can be done basically by:

    1. “equal opportunities for any character to win a battle” what does this even mean? are we talking balance in PvP? Since when should a skill-less noob-controlled character have the same chance as the spec’ed avatar of a pro player?! Who would even expect this? and how and why has such a game ever been made? this sounds like the report source summarized the paper to the point of being nonsense

    2. “They should also build more selective or elaborate chat rooms and guild features to help players socialize”, OK, so having chatrooms and other guild management mechanics makes sense, but again, what do they mean by “selective or elaborate”? more useless jargon!

    I’d really love to see the original study in full (not out yet apparently), but so far it provides no insight or value whatsoever – balance and tools to socialize are so basic to MMO’s that no ever has doubted their importance – god is in the details, hell, even Satan is in the details.

  2. Xoduz says:

    Yeah, I’d love to see the full study as well. Also not sure if I buy the “equal opportunities to win battles”-thing. At least from personal experience (anecdotes ftw!), being able to win pvp battles is not what has created a “connection” for me to characters in MMOs I’ve played. But hey, if that’s what tickles other people’s retention-bones… *shrug*

    For me, in for instance UO, it was a multitude of small reasons. Like the fact that I could stand out from the crowd to some degree by dressing differently, that I could create (and achieve) personal goals for my characters that weren’t the same as every other players’, that I could essentially mark out a piece of land by as my own by putting down a house there and being able to say “this is mine” and have other players see it as such. It wasn’t just a house in instance #47, it was there – in the “real” part of the virtual world.

    Things like these were the main reason why I (foolishly) kept paying to keep my account alive long after I actually stopped playing the game.