The Daily Grind: What one thing should MMORPGs do to increase player retention?

    
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Zubon at Kill Ten Rats recently spied a lovely tidbit over on Dr Richard Bartle’s blog. Bartle, I shouldn’t need to type, is considered one of the founding fathers of the MMORPG genre, having inspired through his research the infamous Bartle test. So it should be no surprise at all that he sees online worlds in everything: As his piece explains, he examined a document intended for advising universities on how to improve their student retention rates — and Bartle realized it read like an “MMO newbie-retention handbook.”

“A place where people can hang out between teaching events and make friends? Check. Organised groups led by experienced students that you can join? Check. A communication channel for students just like you? Check. A method of finding other people who are interested in the same things you are? Check. Fun tasks for people with different skills working together ? Check. Easy challenges with small rewards to get you into the swing of things? Check.”

It’s worth a quick read, especially for the cake joke, but I want to focus your attention on retention and stickiness specifically for the purposes of today’s Daily Grind. Do you agree that developers should be spending more time on retention? And what one thing should MMORPGs do to increase player retention?

Every morning, the Massively Overpowered writers team up with mascot Mo to ask MMORPG players pointed questions about the massively multiplayer online roleplaying genre. Grab a mug of your preferred beverage and take a stab at answering the question posed in today’s Daily Grind!
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AGx-07_162

Determine game-play mechanics players have the biggest problems with and change them based on player feedback. This can be something that’s done like once a year. Spend some time collecting data on the biggest gripes and then once a year, with your big expansion or patch, fix it. My perfect example would be for BDO to eliminate the RNG on weapon/armor upgrades. Make it difficult. Make it time consuming. But don’t make it random. Players tolerate this because we have no choice but nobody actually likes it. For FFXIV it might be implementing classes that players actually want rather than what the developers feel like adding. When players feel like their feedback actually means something, they’re more likely to stick around because they feel like the developers actually value them.

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Jack Pipsam

Have a nice website.

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CasualSlacks

If I can’t make a character that I want to play, I won’t keep playing your game. On the other hand, if I really like my characters, I’ll keep playing and will probably throw money at the game. For example, I’ve been trying to make a character I like in Wildstar since the beta, but the class, race, and gender restrictions along with the customization limitations just make the game less interesting to play. On the other hand, I keep logging into Champions Online and buying game cards for that game, which is about 2 developers shy of abandonware, because I love the super heroes that I created. I’m not a guy who sees the characters he creates as avatars of himself, I see them as the characters that I’m contributing to a story I’m telling with a few thousand other people.

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Witches

Stop counting how many millions of players WOW had whenever it was at its peak, then just try your best to make the best game possible, if you can make one that doesn’t treat some activity like the “be all, end all” even better, finally no cash shop heavy game has really thrived, sure they made lots of money but if that’s your main drive then you might be better of starting a pool to play the lottery.

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Robert Mann

To be blunt, stop trying to be a combat and loot simulator. I get it. It’s the classic design. Combat is exciting, and very important.

The thing is, so is everything else within a good rpg experience. There should be far more to the world than going out and killing things. Storyline in MMOs have been weak at best for a long time, and that’s about the only other thing they have going on.

Reduce NPCs. Have players who focus on things other than combat much of the time. There’s no reason a person can’t, for instance, run a blacksmith’s shop which makes cool gear (even special stuff that would classically come from dungeons and raids) out of materials both mundane and mystical (some possibly coming from those pieces of content) and which repairs that equipment. Said blacksmith could even close shop at times to go out and about when online.

It’s just that there is nothing else to do. You finish the story. The gear carrot gets old, or is eaten for a particular content release. Alts are only fun for so long. So combat and gear is old good for so long.

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AGx-07_162

If it tells you anything FFXI and FFXIV have been the only two MMO’s I’ve every played where I really cared about the story. WoW is a close 3rd, B&S is a distant 4th.

Veldan
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Veldan

Develop the social aspect of the games. The more people care about the other people, the more likely they are to keep logging in. The two points that I think are most important to improve this:

1) Live moderation and rule enforcement. Get GMs into the game again and let them act against toxic players. It doesn’t matter if they don’t catch everything, their very presence will be both encouraging to good people and discouraging to toxic people. Most MMOs have all rules needed for a great environment already present in their ToS, the only problem is that they’re not enforced.

2) Create reasons for people to form connections. No more LFG tools and auto-join zergs in the open world. Make sure that when people play in a group, they’re going to actually communicate and work together. That’s what makes people appreciate each other’s presence. Faceless masses like GW2 dynamic events or zero-communication groups like most LFG dungeons don’t do anything for player retention. They are a pale shadow of what multiplayer once meant.

Andy McAdams
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Andy McAdams

Does anyone know retention rates for MMOs? I’m kind of curious as to what’s considered normal or healthy for 1 month, 2 month etc retention. I really have no concept of what’s good here.

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Sally Bowls

three factoids:

During the halcyon days of early days of Wildstar prelaunch (/salty as opposed to what they shipped). JG said that about 10-15% of players leave each month. Which would be an average of about 6-10 months.

Quite a while ago, CCP said that the average player duration was 7 months.

At Fanfest, CCP said that the majority of the 1.5 million players who tried EVE in the last year quit withing two hours.

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A Dad Supreme

Fresh content at a reasonable rate of release.
Most of the people I know quit or take breaks from games they like because of content droughts, not because they dislike the company or bugs in them.

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GamingSF

Fix the leveling curve. Many games have made this a crazy sprint to the cap trivialising all the efforts put into world building. Others have quixotic stepped leveling where it is sometimes fast and sometimes painfully slow (EQ2). Conversely, why do the last few levels in some games have to take as long as all the levels before combined?

Andy McAdams
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Andy McAdams

Creating and flushing out social and non-combat aspects of the game. I think MMOs succeeded in spite of having combat as the primary means of interaction in the game as opposed to because of.

Being able to have a more meaningful impact on the world, above and beyond “Hey I killed a bunch of things there!” is really important. I think it’s becoming more apparent that a not small number of gamers was more to do above and beyond the stab things. The more we add to that, the better.

In Anarchy Online, we used to hang out at the bar in Old Athens –was where I met the guy and we founded a guild together. I’ve yet to feel that kind of ‘just hangout’ vibe in any other game since. Combine that with the elaborate buff system, being able to really build whatever kind of character you wanted — was just all around a fun game.