Many of us here at OCC likely have a large library of games with many we played once, then abandoned, some we still play occasionally, and a few you can find us in every week. For much of the gaming world, these games we play most often are MMORPGs like World of Warcraft, Star Wars: The Old Republic, and Guild Wars 2 which have massive, persistent followings of gamers. Why are some of us loyal to those games across months and years? That is the question researchers at the University of Buffalo wanted to answer.
Though loyalty is going to be important for any game, MMORPGs are special in that they often require a subscription or rely on micro-transactions for revenue, so understanding what makes a player loyal is necessary to maximize profits. What the researchers found after following 173 players in a large MMORPG community was that player interaction with the game and other players is what produced loyalty. When the gamer had more control over their character, and thus a greater sense of ownership, they were more loyal. Another strategy for increasing loyalty was a robust social mechanic in the game, such as guilds, as being in a group helped build a social identity within the game.
To encourage loyalty in future games the researchers recommend, essentially, well balanced characters so any character can win a fight, and having elaborate chat rooms for players to socialize in. Maybe developers will take this to heart as research has found that increasing player retention by just 5% can increase profits by 25%-95%.