University at Buffalo Study: Strategies to Increase Player Loyalty

Apparently this is news to people but for us MMO gamers, we already knew 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.”

The quote is from a recent study done by the University at Buffalo School of Management. The results seem pretty straightforward so far and should come as no surprise to game developers.

The study recommends that devs focus on building the player’s sense of ownership of his character by though combat mechanics that allow equal opportunities for players to win in battle. Also, guilds, chat rooms and other social content help build a social identity in the game so that also increases player loyalty.

One of the most interesting things the study mentioned is that increasing customer retention (holding on to existing players) by as little as 5 percent can dramatically increase revenues by 25 to 95 percent.

That’s why customer retention is such a big deal. We have noted before that a large player base is necessary to the MMORPG experience. After all, how can you play a 100 vs 100 guild war if too few people are playing? That’s why one of our criteria for listing the best free MMORPGs is popularity. These days the competition is so stiff that even big-name MMOs like World of Warcraft have seen a decline in player loyalty.

Some strategies that companies have been using for years now are:

  • special promotions like giveaways, contests, events
  • refer-a-friend schemes like in Runescape, Rift, Eve Online, etc.
  • help with secure access to player accounts since obviously you can’t retain players if their accounts get stolen
  • veteran player rewards

So what keeps you coming back to your favorite MMO? Leave a comment and let us know what you think.