[This unedited press release is made available courtesy of Gamasutra and its partnership with notable game PR-related resource GamesPress.]
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
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.
“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
“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.”
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
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
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 at
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 mgt.buffalo.edu.
The University at Buffalo is a premier research-intensive public
university, a flagship institution in the State University of New
York system and its largest and most comprehensive campus.
UB’s more than 28,000 students pursue their academic
interests through more than 300 undergraduate, graduate and
professional degree programs. Founded in 1846, the University at
Buffalo is a member of the Association of American