Developers who want to build a loyal fan base (and subsequently increase profits) might want to check out the findings of a new study
conducted by the University at Buffalo School of Management. One of the study's conclusions is something that many MMO gamers probably suspect: Giving players more control of their characters and building a community fosters loyalty.
Dr. Lawrence Sanders, co-author of the study, discussed how most research focuses on the addictive nature of games instead of the reasons behind players committing to one game over another. He wrote, "Our study looked at how to make [games] more competitive in the marketplace." Sanders pointed out that research shows an increase in customer retention by as little as 5% can increase profits by 25 to 95%.
So how can developers create the fierce loyalty found in MMO communities surrounding games like World of Warcraft
and Star Wars Galaxies
? According to the results of the study, which will be published in the International Journal of Electronic Commerce, Sanders suggested that "to build a player's feeling of ownership toward his character, gamemakers should provide equal opportunities for any character to win a battle. They should also build more selective or elaborate chat rooms and guild features to help players socialize."