Brand Loyalty (was Re: [MUD-Dev] Requirements for MM(wasComplexities of MMOG Servers))

Ryan S. Dancey ryand at organizedplay.com
Thu Jan 9 10:50:55 New Zealand Daylight Time 2003


From: Travis Casey [mailto:efindel at earthlink.net] 

> I'll note, though, that there's a fundamental difference here --
> PNP systems require only a one-time expenditure of money, where
> most of the MMORPGs named above require continuing payment in
> order to be able to play.

Greetings!

My company, OrganizedPlay, licensed the Living City of Ravens Bluff
from Wizards of the Coast in 2001, and in 2002, we converted to a
pay-for-play business model.

Living City is a "massively multiplayer tabletop roleplaying game".
It uses the D&D game engine, is set in the Forgotten Realms world,
and it has persistent characters and objects, all using paper-based
"certificates" and log sheets.  It's been running continuously since
the late 1980s.

When I was the brand manager for D&D and the VP of RPGs at Wizards
of the Coast, one of the big analytical problems we worked on
solving was figuring out how to institute a downstream revenue from
an RPG line.  The traditional solution to the problem is to sell
sourcebooks to players and DMs, but the data shows that only a tiny
fraction of the people who buy the core books ever buy the
sourcebooks.

I believed (and still believe) that a partial solution comes from
selling the adventure content on a pay-to-play basis.  Living City
is something of a testbed (it has its own structural problems and a
legacy of bad design and sloppy management), but we have been able
to aggregate a community of 2,500 people who pay roughly $30/year to
participate.  They play scenarios that are designed to be played
with a random grouping of 3-6 PCs in a 4 to 5 hour time block (which
usually works out to 4 "encounters" that require combat, significant
roleplaying, or problem/puzzle solving).

Interestingly, this paper-based environment parallels many of the
challenges of the digital environments.  We can ignore the low level
server/software/bandwidth management issues, and we don't have a lot
of investment in graphic design, but we still see issues like the
need for treadmills, issues of PvP violence, administration of
people who feel "cheated", a constant need to make minor adjustments
in the rules and the implementation of in-game effects from
character abilities, etc.

Ryan

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