Let me set the scene for this blog. You want to buy a game. Where do you go . . . to the shops. You browse for a while and after much deliberation you choose a game. You go to the counter and the employee says “That would be £39.99 please”. You pay the guy and are about to turn around and leave and enjoy your game when the employee says “That would be another £8.99 please”. You seem a little miffed but you pay the guy and for the second time attempt to leave the shop. However, you here the employee shout “That would be another £8.99 please”. At this point you are getting a little frustrated. You give the guy the money and quickly stomp your way out the shop. You never get out the shop though. The employee asks you again “That would be another £8.99 please”. This scenario sounds like something no sane individual would even contemplate of doing! Who would want to keep on paying for the same game over and over again!
Over 10 million people, that’s who!
That’s right. Over 10 million people are playing the game World of Warcraft. All of you have probably heard of this game. World of Warcraft (WoW) is a type of game known as a MMO (Mass Multiplayer Online) game. If you play WoW you are required to purchase the game and then pay £8.99 a month to play the game! The aim of this blog is to find out why people pay to play these games!
Yee (2006) suggests that the reason for this is because of the emotional investment players have with the characters in the game. For example, in WoW you can alter your characters appearance to suit your liking. You can choose your character’s abilities and the way it interacts with the game. Yee states that this flexibility in character development encourages the investment of emotion towards your character and the game.
Another angle to look at is the technique of a free trial. With games like WoW you can get a 14 day free trial. You can get a feel for the game and create your character for 14 days then if you want to carry on you pay £8.99 a month. Bawa and Shoemaker (2004) found that free samples of a product can create a significant long term effect on sales. Thus, the game companies know that with a free trial available more people are likely to carry on playing. Furthermore, when people play the free trial they establish an emotional link with their character. As Yee (2006) suggested an emotional investment will cause players to subscribe to the game. So a free trial of a game can cause a player to become invested in the game. Once you have created a character you want to carry on playing with that character. Therefore, when the free trial ends you buy a subscription. As you want to carry on your character’s development. So the player pays the subscription to invest into their character.
So, if people are willing to pay to play what effect does this have on the game? Wang et al. (2005) discovered that participant’s willingness to pay for a monthly subscription was positively correlated to the perceived quality of the product. Thus, the more people are willing to pay for a game the more they will perceive the game as having high quality. Dick and Lord (1998) also found that customer’s loyalty to the brand was influenced if the customer was a member of the brand. Customers who were a member were more loyal to the brand.
What are the take home points of this blog. The utilization of free trials enables the player to create and play with their video game character. This then establishes an emotional involvement between the player and their game characters. This emotional involvement then motivates the player to subscribe to a monthly payment to play the game. Moreover, monthly subscriptions have a significant impacts on the way players view games.
The question is would you pay monthly for one game that never significantly changes?