Devs speak out: “MMOs are for the hardcore.” “Immersion makes people spend more in cash shops.”

For today, a quick look at comments made by developers which caught my eye this week.

Aventurine speak out

Tasos Flambouras, from the Darkfall team, had a Q&A session with Rock Paper Shotgun this week. One of the things he was talking about was the type of players who are attracted to MMOs.

When you play any MMOG, you’re making an investment, these are not casual games and they continuously evolve.

Nothing much to argue about there, you’d think. But commentators have interpreted this as meaning that MMOs are for the hardcore only. They’re right, of course. But it depends how you define hardcore.

Even the most casual MMO player has some kind of ongoing commitment to their favourite game/s and to their character/s. That commitment might go on for months or even years. Even if you just log on once a week to chat to your friends and solo a bit, that’s pretty hardcore compared to most gamers.

But it does go further than that. These are massive, complex games (even if old time players don’t think so). They reward time spent researching or looking up information online. The more time you spend thinking about the game when you aren’t playing it, the better. The more time you put in, the more you get out of the game – that’s been the traditional way things have worked, and it sounds to be the type of game Aventurine are proud of producing. So these are also games which have tended reward players for being more hardcore and challenge them as to who can be the most hardcore guy on the block.

Even if the competitive hardcore aspect was toned down (as is the trend), a casual MMO player would still come across as amazingly hardcore compared with the average gamer.

However, convincing Darkfall players that they’re more hardcore than everyone else has been one of Aventurine’s marketing strategies so it would be surprising if Tasos didn’t mention it several times during the Q&A session. He does forget his hardcore persona and go slightly off-message later in the article when he adds:

Darkfall is not the strictly hardcore game it’s made out to be. We have numerous casual players who enjoy the game as much or even more than the hardcore players. We were also surprised to find a healthy population of role-players during our events.

I’m intrigued as to what a healthy population of role-players is. If you are too, and like full PvP in games, they have a free trial on at the moment.

If a game world is immersive, players will spend more

MMO Crunch post about a report that shows how immersion affects buying habits in virtual worlds. (But they fail at linking to the actual report so I can only comment on their summary – which is that players spend more in immersive worlds.) This sounds plausible to me, although I was sad not to see the report because I’m curious as to how they measured immersion.

But another well known developer also spoke on a similar issue this week. Legendary Nintendo designer, Shigeru Miyamoto, answered questions in a video interview for IGN (partly transcribed by eurogamer.)

And then what happens is as the player begins to understand the world that they’re playing in, then they’re going to begin to think about ways that they can play within that world; they use their own creativity and their own imagination to tell the story or to come up with their own parts of the story, and at the same time they come up with new ways to play in this world that has been created for them.

So in a time when many MMO players have been wondering if devs are giving up on presenting immersive worlds, there are two different angles on why immersiveness might be THE single most important part of a game.

The first argument, straight to the bottom line, is that being involved in an immersive gameworld encourages players to spend more money. And the second, straight to the gameplay, is that players are more encouraged to play in immersive worlds.

So don’t give up hope yet!

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8 thoughts on “Devs speak out: “MMOs are for the hardcore.” “Immersion makes people spend more in cash shops.”

  1. derailing, I know; It’s weird how such a small small game like Darkfall keeps popping up on the blogs I read, while Aion, warhammer et al. Do not.
    I wonder if it is because that game is so unsimilar to wow, where the others are very similar, or if darkfall is just better at marketing the news-circles (or at least the ones I visit)?

    • It’s definitely true that some games seem more popular with the blogging crowds, but WAR (for example) has a fairly active blog-circuit.

      I’m not sure about Aion, and I know what you mean about the odd representation. I’m thinking that there are only so many hours in the week and people tend to stick with what they know. But even aside from that, blogging is a minority pursuit so maybe if a game starts off with a well organised blogosphere (even if it is just one well connected blogger organising lists and activities for the rest), maybe it tends to stick better.

      Darkfall is a game I see mostly mentioned by people who don’t actually play it. (Which includes me, but it sounds similar in many ways to games that I have played.)

      • Darkfall and Eve make good counter-points in MMO arguments.

        It’s certainly true about some games being fashionable to blog about. SWG is still I believe somewhere around #5 for sub-based western MMOs and no one ever talks about it (except very occasionally KTR).

        WAR does have its bloggers but it doesn’t attract much attention from general bloggers like KTR, TAGN and so on (except when something disastrous happens).

  2. I looked into the MMOCrunch story (yes it’s quite funny that they linked to themself).

    It looks like the report, which is a doctoral thesis, may not be on the internet. There is a contact given here http://nordicworlds.net/?tag=entropia

    Essentially the argument appears to be that players are vulnerable to advertising and subliminal advertising while in flow state. That’s quite possibly true. Cialdini in his book on compliance psychology (Influence) discovered that people lose perspective when emotionally aroused. He tells a story of TV Execs squandering fortunes when smart production companies first introduced competitive auctions for TV programmes.

    I do have a certain scepticism regarding these cash grab MMOs. “Research” proving its worth investing money in virtual worlds may be an exercise in proving what they wanted to find. I’m not sure that “people said they would spend money on Calypso brand clothes” is an accurate metric.
    http://beefjack.com/news/study-shows-virtual-world-product-placement-is-scarily-effective/

  3. The FSU report can be found by following a link in the original press release.

    Go to http://www.tractionpr.com/FPC/FSU/ to find a 6 page PDF.

    It talks about states of flow and subsequent sense of pleasure, but doesn’t talk about immersion at all. At least, not in the sense of a willing suspension of disbelief leading to a sense of “being there”.

    It’s a pretty flimsy looking study, but while reading it did remind me of another psychological state which is conducive to purchasing behavior: the Gruen Transfer http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gruen_transfer

  4. A nice couple of quotes there, Spinks. Many thanks for the links!

    I’m a fan of making these things more “worldy” and interesting. Then again, I’m a hardcore Explorer, so that’s no big surprise. ;)

  5. To me…an immersive world is where I require skill and experience to progress without ever having to swipe a credit card real life for it.

  6. Ah but there’s a slippery slope, ‘require’. I don’t *require* those extra bank tabs in Guild Wars, but I sure do want them!

    Having them will not increase my skill or experience in any way… but I sure do I want them!

    In fact, I’m sure if I sat and thought about it long and hard enough, I could make myself believe that I required them!

    ~_o It’s not immersion that cash shops need. It’s marketing that convinces players that they want the items so much that they tell themselves they require them… NAO!

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