In a study that could have ramifications on how we think of both online worlds including MMORPGs and online titles like FarmVille, researchers at UB School of Management have found that users return to subscription-based games when there is an appearance of a constantly changing environment full of like-minded team members and a sense that the characters are virtual representations of the user.
The study examined 173 players to assess whether two game-play strategies produced loyal players. The most loyal players were able to customize their characters, thereby making them more personal and loyalty could also be grown through the creation of in-game chat systems and guilds. While this is hardly news to anyone who has played online bridge or World of Warcraft, it could help those trying to build “virality” into their titles.
“To build a player’s feeling of ownership towards its character, game makers should provide equal opportunities for any character to win a battle,” said one of the researchers, Lawrence Sanders, Ph.D, professor of management science and systems in the UB School of Management. “They should also build more selective or elaborate chat rooms and guild features to help players socialize.”
They found that the average MMORPG gamer plays 22 hours a week and that increasing customer retention by 5 percent can “increase profits by 25 to 95 percent,” said Sanders.
The study will appear in the International Journal of Electronic Commerce this month.