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Thread: Why Gamers MMOs: A Research Study

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    Telaran Mandos's Avatar
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    Default Why Gamers MMOs: A Research Study

    I mean, MMOs don't really die. They taper off, writhing in their death agonies as more and more players quit. We've all experienced it--a new game comes out, it has tremendous promise, and then reality hits, and after a couple months subscribers start bailing: Vanguard, Age of Conan, Warhammer, etc.

    There are some intuitive/experiential answers:
    • the game is released so buggy that the developers can't make any new content, and players leave in droves
    • No content beyond leveling (Empty World Syndrome, e.g. Vanguard, AoC)
    • Frustration: (as successful as EQ was, how many people do you know who just got fed up one day with their 20th CR of the night and quit?)
    • Game mechanics aren't compelling
    • Outdated in some way (as much as I loved UO, when 3D games came out it was all over).

    But that's my limited personal experience. I would just love a research based answer to this, something generalizable. You likely couldn't do ethnographic work to really try and find causality for why people quite an MMO, but I bet you could get a clearer picture if you did some data collection (which could be fairly manageable).

    I'd want to select some very random distribution of initial subscribers, maybe based on demographic info if available (I forget if they asked for age/gender when I pre-ordered), or maybe based on random selection from the pool of players, and then push an expectations survey towards the users. Track their play life, and make sure to push out an exit survey to try and gather data on experience in game/self-reported reasons for leaving. That gives you a quantitative basis for correlations of factors in gamer satisfaction over subscription life.

    I'd want to combine that with qualitative data: pick out some representative guilds (hard core raiding, family oriented, casual raiding, etc.) and makes these your focus groups. Set up a forum, talk to them about their experiences from day one, and let them provide you with the deep qualitative data you need to understand causal relationships between gaming factors and outcomes.

    I'd just love to see this, see some real data on why people leave games that could then inform design choices.

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    Plane Walker Ultimecia's Avatar
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    We all have different reasons. Some quit due to personal problems, some quit since the game isn't enjoyable to them. A study may show why people quit, but it won't show if others like those tested would quit since we are all different.

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    Rift Disciple Allura's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ultimecia View Post
    We all have different reasons. Some quit due to personal problems, some quit since the game isn't enjoyable to them. A study may show why people quit, but it won't show if others like those tested would quit since we are all different.
    Very true. While I've quit several mmo's over the years most of the time the reasons were different. However...

    What I think would be an interesting study would be reasons people left after major mechanics changes in games.

    I think when this happens in many games it loses the appeal of both the Explorers (who feel tired that they have to repeat their work in mmos to rebuild their knowledge base, if they're starting over why not switch to something newer and more appealing?) and the Achievers (who have to relearn everything that established them at the top all over again and race to be better at it than everyone else to remaster play, since they have to relearn and remaster, why bother staying if another is newer and more appealing?).

    See what I'm getting at here? Since typically Explorers and Achievers are the theory crafters of games, especially mmo's, I think these mass exoduses lead to the apparent 'brain drain' you see in so many mmos that have had game altering mechanics changes. Many of the games I've played and loved now have communities that are rediscovering knowledge that was commonplace when I left. Websites that contained much of the lore/knowledge become unsupported and the knowledge is lost as these subscribers leave game.

    I'm not trying to say cater to the Achievers and Explorers alone, but they do typically make sizable contributions to game. Both the maps in DAOC and EQ were thanks to explorers who spent hours mapping and labeling the terrain and mobs of zones.

    I think that would be useful for game industries to see and give them data to weigh when they are making major game changing decisions. Just my 2 cents.

    Explorer Killers enjoy seeing the world, meeting interesting people...and killing them. EKs love all discovery, but finding an edge over the competition is best. Always seeking new opportunity, an EK likely knows the ten best places to find certain types of opponents, as well as ten different ways for taking them down.

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    Telaran Mandos's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ultimecia View Post
    We all have different reasons. Some quit due to personal problems, some quit since the game isn't enjoyable to them. A study may show why people quit, but it won't show if others like those tested would quit since we are all different.
    You can't generalize from research findings? Uhh, I sure hope you're wrong about that, otherwise me and every other social scientist in the world has pretty much wasted their life

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    Plane Touched Tee's Avatar
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    Not exactly the question you asked (in fact, the exact opposite, lol), but have a read here -

    http://spawnkill.com/2009/07/06/why-...-quit-mmorpgs/

    ~ Tee
    Last edited by Tee; 01-20-2011 at 12:00 AM.
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    Rift Disciple Allura's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mandos View Post
    You can't generalize from research findings? Uhh, I sure hope you're wrong about that, otherwise me and every other social scientist in the world has pretty much wasted their life
    I think the point she was making is that it's really too general, and I'd have to agree. If you have more of a specific question like I proposed rather than "Why do people leave mmos?" I think you'll get more useful information, or at least something that might be useful to the industry you're gathering data from. Plus mass exoduses don't always happen after the first 2 months, in fact I know many people that typically wait 1-2 months for mmos to 'settle down' before they'll buy and sub, so they can view the initial tweaks and changes to the game that will set the tone of the mmo (look as SWG).
    Last edited by Allura; 01-20-2011 at 12:06 AM.

    Explorer Killers enjoy seeing the world, meeting interesting people...and killing them. EKs love all discovery, but finding an edge over the competition is best. Always seeking new opportunity, an EK likely knows the ten best places to find certain types of opponents, as well as ten different ways for taking them down.

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    Telaran Mandos's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Allura View Post
    What I think would be an interesting study would be reasons people left after major mechanics changes in games.

    I think when this happens in many games it loses the appeal of both the Explorers (who feel tired that they have to repeat their work in mmos to rebuild their knowledge base, if they're starting over why not switch to something newer and more appealing?) and the Achievers (who have to relearn everything that established them at the top all over again and race to be better at it than everyone else to remaster play, since they have to relearn and remaster, why bother staying if another is newer and more appealing?).
    That's a good example of what I mean. You've offered a plausible model based on anecdotal and experiential evidence--maybe you're right. But maybe you're right for a very small group of players. We don't know, because we don't have a research basis to validate your intuitive understanding.

    Developers have monetary and human (time) constraints on what they can do to improve/correct a game--before they allocate those scarce resources, it would be great to have a research basis for knowing where the best bang for their buck was.

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    Telaran Mandos's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Allura View Post
    I think the point she was making is that it's really too general, and I'd have to agree. If you have more of a specific question like I proposed rather than "Why do people leave mmos?" I think you'll get more useful information, or at least something that might be useful to the industry you're gathering data from.
    There's a tension in research design. While it is possible to ask more narrow, targeted questions ("How did X change affect your decision to quit?"), and get very specific data, you may also obscure improtant data, because you framed the specific, narrow question. The more narrowly you frame your research question, the greater risk of researcher bias, because your assumptions and current knowledge framed the question.

    Broad, open ended research questions run the risk of not being specific enough to met the needs of a client or project--maybe you get findings that are very interesting, but aren't about controllable factors. But they can also produce really surprising findings. Some of the best research projects I've worked on asked military members very broad, open ended (Why/How sort of) research questions, which then produced very rich findings.

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    Rift Disciple Allura's Avatar
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    Actually you could do something with it combining exit polls (which the games already have) with a long term study of the community over the course of the game. It might be a trickle at first but every dam needs a crack before it breaks, and the point I was making is that both these sections of player base typically contribute the most knowledge/theory to a community and, well, most communities without this knowledge can die or recover with the knowledge being 'rediscovered'. You will notice when these sections of the player base leave; it was painfully obvious in every mmo I've ever played. There have been studies on this already in sociology/psychology on human populations/countries and why these haven't been applied more to mmo communities is beyond me.

    Explorer Killers enjoy seeing the world, meeting interesting people...and killing them. EKs love all discovery, but finding an edge over the competition is best. Always seeking new opportunity, an EK likely knows the ten best places to find certain types of opponents, as well as ten different ways for taking them down.

  10. #10
    Rift Disciple Allura's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mandos View Post
    There's a tension in research design. While it is possible to ask more narrow, targeted questions ("How did X change affect your decision to quit?"), and get very specific data, you may also obscure improtant data, because you framed the specific, narrow question. The more narrowly you frame your research question, the greater risk of researcher bias, because your assumptions and current knowledge framed the question.

    Broad, open ended research questions run the risk of not being specific enough to met the needs of a client or project--maybe you get findings that are very interesting, but aren't about controllable factors. But they can also produce really surprising findings. Some of the best research projects I've worked on asked military members very broad, open ended (Why/How sort of) research questions, which then produced very rich findings.
    True, you might at the very least get a broad sense that would give you the support you needed to continue in one way or the other on a more specific theory/thought. But it also could give you really a mixed hat too, but I think it would be interesting either way. I'm all for more research on MMO communities

    BTW I wasn't saying ask people specifically did you leave because of x change, I was saying start the study the same way you planned on implimenting it after a major change is announced and follow it through to see how the community/game is affected. Still keep the broad perspective but have a focus/theory for what you hope to find.
    Last edited by Allura; 01-20-2011 at 12:30 AM.

    Explorer Killers enjoy seeing the world, meeting interesting people...and killing them. EKs love all discovery, but finding an edge over the competition is best. Always seeking new opportunity, an EK likely knows the ten best places to find certain types of opponents, as well as ten different ways for taking them down.

  11. #11
    Telaran Mortavius's Avatar
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    Default Why I've left.

    Speaking from my point of view, I've always left when developers capitulated to pressure from either suits that wanted to incorporate an audience with tastes diametrically opposed to mine.... which resulted in the destruction of some of the core features I bought the game for.

    Companies offer the disclaimer that "gameplay may change" as an excuse.... and it is repeated like a mantra. They think it protects them from customers leaving, and think we'll accept it.

    Wrong.

    If gameplay changes too much, they can have their new audience. I thoroughly research EVERY game I buy, to see if it is what I like. Change it up too much, and I leave. Take away the features that drew me to the game in the firstplace and I have no reason to stay.

    WTF would I keep buying a product that was advertised to "have rich chocolatey" flavor, after they have added vanilla, and then added a little cinnimon for the crowd that likes cinnimon, to get some of those dollars?

    Before Coke changed its flavor in the 80's (to attract some of Pepsi's dollars with a sweeter drink) I bought Coke exclusively. After they sweetened it up, I didn't like the flavor, so I had to look around for another cola. Even when coke supposedly "changed it back", it tasted different.... and over the years, they've lost money because I no longer buy it as often as I did. Instead, I go for Dr. Pepper (which still tastes pretty much as I remember it).

    Companies need to understand one simple thing: "Take care of the people taking care of you FIRST, because if you forget what drew us to you in the first place, we're gone. We don't *****. We don't complain. We don't pitch fits in forums. We don't lobby.

    We simply leave and go elsewhere. There's always another company trying to get our dollars..... perhaps one day, someone will get it right, and stop killing the stuff that makes them unique to try to garner a few extra dollars.

    I loved Coke... sorry, Coke Classic isn't the same flavor.
    I loved SWG... sorry, that crap that passes for SWG now isn't what I signed up for.
    I loved Earth and Beyond, Anarchy Online, and a host of other products (game and consumables) that companies have changed, trying to get a larger piece of the marketshare pie.
    It seems Netflix is about to learn the same lesson as well... if their CEO keeps insisting on changing their business model. Netflix lost touch with WHY its customers use it. (They're gonna get a painful wake-up call soon).

    What I find funny is that many companies react with incredulity when they lose more of their existing customer-base than the few extra dollars they get by trying to attract new money from the very periphery of their market, or perhaps alien markets. They need to do studies, because they can't understand why people leave. I can save them thousands of hours wasted market research and reading reams of papers.... in fact, I can sum up what they need to do in five words:

    Stop changing your "effing" product!!!

    Target your audience, and REMEMBER them! They are your first and formost concern. Secure your complete dominance in one part of the market, and do not add features that are disliked by that audience. Do not take away features that are loved by that audience. Do neither of these things, regardless of lobbyists, suits, or whoever else *****es to high Hell about seemingly minor things. I say "seemingly minor" because NOTHING is seemingly minor.

    Understand what makes your product unique, and do NOT change it..... or you will find yourself displaced by someone who will eventually come along and do it better... taking the dollars your "at-one-time-unadulturated product" had previously secured beyond a competitors ability to take.
    Last edited by Mortavius; 01-20-2011 at 12:37 AM. Reason: Adjusted for clarity

    AE's are interested in the PvE aspect of a game more than anything else. The AE thrives as a solo adventurer, counting coup with each new destination and discovery, poking into every corner of a map and toying with each nuance of a game mechanic.

  12. #12
    Shield of Telara Zerican's Avatar
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    I am leaving WoW because of 2 reasons.

    1. the new content isnt all that great. lazy work.

    2. the community has become a puddle of goo. angry goo at that.

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    Plane Walker Ironfungus's Avatar
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    I don't typically leave a game like this unless the company starts heading into a certain undesirable direction, much like what happened to Call of Duty (hand-holding, casual-friendly). I stopped playing World of Warcraft mainly due to an overly-rude community and imbalanced PvP.

    But sometimes I just leave a game for a change in scenery.
    Last edited by Ironfungus; 01-20-2011 at 03:27 AM.

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    Rift Disciple
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    I quit when I run out of things to do that I find fun, no fun game dropped, and back to EU3.

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    General of Telara Azendi's Avatar
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    Community is an important factor. I love AOC, but since people seemed to disagree with me the subs dropped and it became a ghost town. Otherwise I'd still be playing.

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