[MUD-Dev] RE: Brand Loyalty

Dr. Cat cat at realtime.net
Fri Jan 3 03:13:39 New Zealand Daylight Time 2003


From: "Koster, Raph" <rkoster at soe.sony.com>

> I am not sure what this has to do with brand loyalty per se, but
> I'll make the assertions that
 
>   treadmills are good
>   forced socialization is good
>   downtime is good
 
> even in the face of much outcry from many, many people. There's a
> lot more to the dynamics of human behavior beyond "I'm bored" and
> "I want to be self-sufficient."
 
> Perhaps as a reversal it would sound less like a rationalization:
 
>   a mud without a treadmill will fail
>   a mud without socialization will fail
>   a mud without downtime will fail

I assume by "good" you mean something like "successful in getting
and keeping players" or "commercially successful".  While many would
argue that treadmills are bad in other ways, they certainly succeed
commercially.

I would argue that "treadmills succeed" hardly implies "absence of
them precludes success".  I would argue that there are multiple ways
to succeed, and our industry is SO immature it's only found one of
them.

I think treadmills ultimately get people to quit, in a time period
that may be as little as weeks or months for some, and may range
from 1-10 years for others.  (10 years is pretty extreme, you'd find
more people that'd quit in 2-5 years than you'd find diehards at 10
- and those people are probably LONG since off the treadmill and
staying for other reasons by that point.)  The average length of
time before quitting is sufficient to make a profit.

I would argue that a "soap opera" or a "meet/meat market" could
succeed better than a treadmill, and the average number of years of
retention would be even higher if it was done well.  Certainly on
the social MUD that I've been on for 10 years, I know a number of
people who also have, or have been there longer.  More "real"
rewards hook people in beyond the hardcore gamers, and hook them in
a way that's far more powerful and motivating.  Sooner or later
somebody's going to do something that involves gambling for real
money - having worked a bit on video bingo and video slot machines,
I know those things can be far more powerful draws than "high score"
or "levels" or "magic swords".  Is there a market for them in online
multiplayer games?  Good question.  80% of the revenues in Vegas
come from slot machines, which are usually a very solitary gaming
experience.  But there are table games, craps in particular, that
have a strong element of interacting with the other players at the
table.  So who knows?

All I know is there ARE going to be powerful sources of appeal other
than treadmills.  And I certainly look forward to them, because
treadmills are pretty shallow.  Something like the "constant
stimulus to the inductive reasoning parts of the brain" provided in
the old 2D Super Mario games, which was more or less addictive as
crack to little kids, would be very interesting to see in an online
world.

I'd be a little sad that all the commercial games besides The Sims
Online are so focused on things that involve fighting and becoming
more powerful, if it didn't represent such a huge market opportunity
for me and my partners.  Still, we can't grow the market too fast on
our own, and I hope Sims will do that for us.  :X)

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