BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Online role-playing game developers can get
ahead of the competition by giving gamers more opportunities to get
social, collaborate and take control of their online personas,
according to a study from the University at Buffalo School of
The study, forthcoming in the International Journal of
Electronic Commerce, considers why some massive multiplayer online
role-playing games, or MMORPGs, like "World of Warcraft" or "Star
Wars Galaxies," command legions of loyal players while others
struggle to gain a following.
The question is important to developers because gameplay styles
that keep players coming back are key to building a successful
MMORPG and to increasing business profit. Online gaming is part of
daily life for players of all ages and backgrounds; revenues from
games on Facebook and other social networking platforms are
expected to reach $2 billion in 2012, according to the study.
"The graphics and technology behind the games have improved over
the years, but developers haven't made much effort to understand
what makes MMORPG players really commit to one game over another,"
explains study co-author Lawrence Sanders, PhD, professor of
management science and systems in the UB School of Management.
"Most prior research has focused on the addictive nature of
these games. Our study looked at how to make them more competitive
in the marketplace," says Sanders.
The study followed a group of 173 players who were part of a
large MMORPG community. It examined whether two different
game-playing strategies were successful in producing loyal
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
In an MMORPG, players share experiences, earn rewards and
interact with others in an online world that is ever-present. It's
known as a "persistent-state-world" because even when a gamer is
not playing, millions of others around the globe are.
Some MMORPGs operate on a subscription model where gamers pay a
monthly fee to access the game world, while others use the
free-to-play model where access to the game is free but may feature
advertising, additional content through a paid subscription or
optional purchases of in-game items or currency.
The average MMORPG gamer spends 22 hours per week playing.
Research on loyalty has found that increasing customer retention
by as little as 5 percent can increase profits by 25 to 95 percent,
Sanders points out.
So for the developers who create these games, finding gameplay
styles that keep players coming back is key to building a
successful MMORPG--and business.
Sanders collaborated on the International Journal of Electronic
Commerce study with Edward Garrity, PhD, professor, Department of
Marketing and Information Systems at Canisius College; Junghoon
Moon, PhD, associate professor, Program in Regional Information,
Seoul National University; Md. Dulal Hossain, PhD, senior engineer,
Institute of Computer Science, Atomic Energy Research Establishment
at the Bangladesh Atomic Energy Commission; and Sooran Jo,
researcher, business data mining team at Daum Communications.
The UB School of Management is recognized for its emphasis on
real-world learning, community and economic impact, and the global
perspective of its faculty, students and alumni. The school has
been ranked by Bloomberg Businessweek, the Financial Times, Forbes,
U.S. News & World Report and The Wall Street Journal for the
quality of its programs and the return on investment it provides
its graduates. For more information about the UB School of
Management, visit: mgmt.buffalo.edu.