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MMO Loyalty

Loyalty (in MMO gaming terms) comes in several forms from consumer to the game. Here are three gamer type examples - there is a lot of in between, and parts of each, but for the most part most gaming is done in and around the three below examples. I am giving them names so we can continue to talk about them throughout the article.

Greg: This is my game, and I am playing it no matter what

Amanda: This is the game me and my friends play, and we are playing it together

Pat: This is my friends' game and I'm playing it to be with them.

They are ranked in general importance. You could argue Amanda is more valuable than Greg (because of the group of friends involved) but brand evangelists are the most important customer to have. Amanda will leave before Greg does, and Pat already has one foot out the door but is there to spend time with friends.

How does the gaming company treat each of these people? Let's have a look:

1) Exactly

2) The

3) Same

While loyalty (in MMO gaming terms) comes in several forms from consumer to the game itself, why isn't their loyalty and appreciation flowing from game to consumer? "Treat" is a pretty big generality. In game, there may tons of different "features" that attract each player and lots of things in game from raiding, to housing, to quests, PVP, role playing (etc.). These are things for gamers.

Why are they treated the same as customers? They aren't the same. They aren't motivated by the same things. They may share some motivations (enjoy gaming, MMOs, etc.) but let's take a closer look.

Greg, it turns out, is a University student and has a lot of free time. He plays 25+ hours a week, is on a hardcore raid team, and is a very active member of the community in forums and blogs and even has a podcast about the game! He has played for 39 months - since launch! He goes to MMOcon every year.

Amanda is an officer in a serious but fun based guild. She knows a lot about the game and helps recruit and get new people into the guild. She has been with the same guild a long time, and plays with the same people all the time. Gaming is all about the people for Amanda! She plays 15 hours a week.

Pat doesn't love the game but doesn't hate it either. Pat does have lots of gaming friends who all enjoy it, so Pat plays a few hours each week (around 5) to do the aspects Pat loves in the game but mostly to say hi to Pat's friends there.

They are all different. They all have different motivations, use the developer and game resources differently. They all have invested differently into the game and differently into the developer.

Yet, they are treated all the same.

Starbucks, who has some of the best customer service in the world, treats their heavy users differently. They also have one of the top loyalty programs in the world. If you go to Starbucks once a week you get a coffee and a great service experience.  Soon as you hit Gold Level status with Starbucks, you start getting free coffees after X number of visits, and instead of add on charges for syrups and what not, you get those for free too. You always get a free drink on your birthday and because they use purchase data and history they know your favorite drink and send you coupons and offers surrounding the type of experience you have shown to enjoy in the past. They also entice you with new and exciting things to try for a change! All of this is because Starbucks recognizes your contribution to their success as an organization and rewards you for your loyalty to their brand.

Why? Because there are how many coffee places in the world? Brands should be very thankful for consumers making the choice to visit them. It's not the same old marketplace it used to be. It is now about the customer, not the business itself. The business needs the customers more than the customers need the business - because there are so many options in every business.

I had a lot of fun in many subscription games and leaving was typically because hey - something new to try and I'm not getting the same feeling or joy from this game, for this price point. I know for sure I would have stayed longer in games at lower price points and found better justifications for paying and supporting the companies. WoW got 5+ years, two subs out of me - almost $2000 - and none of which funded additional development (had to buy my expansion packs...) and only a fraction of which paid for my bandwidth and resources (never needed CSM help, how much is 10 hours a week of bandwidth cost these days?) - in short, I was a very profitable player for them. I also built and maintained a guild - some of which, you could argue, wouldn't have played or enjoyed the game as much without my personal effort (and that of my guild team!) - point is, when you do the spinoff affect, I helped contribute  thousands of dollars to that game. It was fun, and some of the best gaming I had done (so I don't regret the "cost") but they could have had me longer and made more money off of me if they for once, appreciated the positive contributions I put into their game - both monetary and subsidiary.

Unfortunately MMOs don't look at their customers as individuals, per se. And this is a shame, because they have some of the best data in the world on their customers. Hell, they have the type of data every major company would pay huge dollars for - and they get it for free!

Starbucks, back to that example, would pay a lot of money to know exactly what their customers did in their stores. What seats were always picked first? (And why?) How long did people sit in them? What ELSE were they doing while sitting in their seats? Were they talking to friends? Working on a laptop? Texting?  What behaviors did they do, and most importantly, why? The reason why Starbucks would love this information in the first place, would be to make the experience better. If no one sits in 4 chairs, they would either make the chairs more comfortable, or but something else there to make everyone's experience better. It would give Starbucks the opportunity to improve for not only the bigger picture, but for the exact customer that comes in 4x a week. (there are many examples of this. Imagine if that customer went in 4 days a week, and always sat in the same chair? What if a team member recognized that, and one day when that customer went in, there was a sign on the chair saying "reserved for Kathy". Kathy would feel pretty good about that.)

MMOs are fortunate enough to know exactly what every player is doing at every moment in their game and they should leverage that to provide a more personal and engaging experience for their customers. There are many options in the MMO sphere like in life and what markets are realizing now is that personalization and customization are driving the best brands and most successful consumer markets. MMOs have all the information they need to provide next gen experiences and lead marketplaces in this regard. They just have to sort out how to make that work and how to engage and delight their customers. Not just with in game items and behaviors (although a good start) but also with how customers pay, access, and support (and get support from) the game outside of the game.

And here is a big hint - its not to treat everyone exactly the same.

I know it is challenging because of the scope and nature of number of players versus number of developers, but from my personal experiences in MMO gaming I am not a valued customer - I am just a number on a spreadsheet.

(End note: some community members in WoW have been memorialized for their contributions after death, etc. so kudos for that where it is due. I am talking a more frequent, common level however, to general customers - not just the extraordinary exceptional ones.)


Spammy McSpamertons

Holy bejezzus.

(that PG enough?)

Spent a week working and not playing or blogging, came back to my blog with thousands of spam messages caught by askimet.

Anyone (much smarter than I?) care to explain how the nonesens-ish posts somehow create clickthroughs or traffic?

And how many Michael Kohrs bags need to be spammed anyway?

See, it's not just the important blogs getting spammed to all heck.

(PG again, see that?)

337 more came in in the time it took me to write this.


The Newbie Blogger Initiative

I am not "officially" participating in the NBI this year and it definitely has nothing to do with not being interested - this year is just bad timing for me with a whirlwind of work and family commitments I'll barely get around to posting (but am trying!)

All that being said, I think it is a great initiative and even though I am not officially a part of the NBI, I'll share my thoughts on blogging in case any of it is remotely helpful to anyone reading.

Brief history - this blog is actually pretty old - started way back in 2008. I started off writing around 20 posts a month - and that was a lot to keep up with. I had two extended breaks, one during a major health issue (lymphoma-scare) and one during a near divorce. I wasn't very good at balancing my life between workaholism, gaming too much (progression raiding in WoW) - the balance was all off. So I quit blogging as I kept viewing blogging as adding to my inability to balance. This, in hindsight, was the wrong choice - I should have cut back on WoW and other things because I had a great deal of joy writing, reading, and thinking about games and gaming. I remember my first Vic-20 and C-64, and I programmed an asteroids type game on the tape drive.  I remember playing Star Control 2 on a 386-sx16 that I paid almost $4000 for (it was cutting edge!) I remember Sierra games at my friends house. I grew up in love with the digital playground and spent a lot of time there.

In short, it is a passion.

My lessons learned since 2008:

  • Write for you and your audience. Both will, and are allowed, to change
  • Don't stress about who is and isn't reading, and who is and isn't commenting
  • Blogging is a community so try to read other blogs and support them. Usually just reading is enough! Comments are also much-loved by most bloggers (erm.. constructive comments and opinions *grin*) so if you read something you enjoyed let them know. Sometimes my comments are just that - "I enjoyed this article - thanks for writing it!" - that's the best most bloggers get these days!
  • Being a professional writer isn't important - trying to keep spelling and punctuation errors clean is. I often have to re-edit posts for spelling and punctuation.
  • Don't edit out your posts after posting - except for the above! If your opinion changes after a nice debate, feel free to add something at the top or bottom - but leave the article intact. Remember, it was the one that started the conversation in the first place!
  • Have fun.

There are more but that is top of mind. My blogging style is conversational - I just write what I am thinking AS I am thinking it. I enjoy being free that way. I re read it a couple times, make minor edits, and then post (and then re-read and find those pesky spelling and punctuation errors...)

Welcome to Blognation. I hope you stay a while =)

Go check out the NBI and participate! I am going to make sure my calendar is cleared so I can be a better community blogger for next year. I am still going to go comment on some newbie sites =)



I Must Have Been Trolled =)

I took down my last post - turns out the guys I was running the WildStar dungeons with must have been trolling me. I have read the truth and turns out the medals are grouped base. After the run I asked what everyone else got and they told me differently.

So, I was either trolled or it was a bug. Either way, the post is completely useless now =)

I couldn't decide if I was going to leave it up and [redact] it (probably would have been way cooler?) but just took it down instead!

Ruined a post that I liked, but wasn't based on fact, so buh-bye.

My apologies!


Interwebs Issues

Just a short service announcement - I have been having server issues. My site has been down intermittently. This has caused the Nasdaq to plummet and world oil prices to rise.

My apologies.

Don't give up on me! Seems to happen randomly and I'm looking for answers.

On a side note - I got access to WILDSTAR beta! For free! I didn't even have to pre-order. Should be a fun weekend. I'm rolling the troll type guy, for sure.

Have a great Friday, and afterwards, amazing weekend.


EQN:L Closed Beta

Just posting here for anyone interested!

I will be playing on the COURAGE (US) Server (assuming it is still there) and will be hoping to claim land near some friends. With this in mind, if you find a place to claim, please post it here! I am at work today *ahem* so I won't be able to claim until the evening.

With that in mind, picking an out of the way spot is preferable so there is room for others to claim nearby. If not, with new claim permissions, 60 minute ports to claims (etc.) it won't be too tough to find one another.

If you claim early please post Server-Area-Tier and Type, and general area. I read there will be a mid-closed beta wipe when they add in caves and water so don't worry about finding the perfect spot. It will go beta-poof! =)

Isey is my name in game as well, so hopefully they have friends lists working in this iteration. Just read they are extending downtime, so we'll see how smooth things are.

Filed under: General 17 Comments

My Influential 15

One of my favorite blogs to visit is The Ancient Gaming Noob (TAGN) and he recently posted an Influential 15  list - started by another blogger and other sites are also playing along. The parts I read indicated not too many rules, but just do not overthink it - only take 15 minutes, and list them out.

This sounds like fun. I am going in chronological order!

Mario Bros (arcade) (1985)

I spent most of my allowance money playing this game with two of my best friends at the local bowling alley. It was close enough to our school that we could run there at lunch breaks, and always went right after school as well - but just for 20 minutes before racing home. This introduced me to the side scrolling platform [honorable mentions: Ghost and Goblins, Castlevania, Bionic Commando]

Hardball (c64) (1987)

Two teams - the red, power hitting team and the blue, speedy team. That was it in this baseball game. My brother and I played for hours at home - nice to not have to be at the arcade. (I always got stuck with the blue team). [Honorable mention: Madden (I still buy it every few years]

Police Quest (PC) (1987)

My first foray into the Sierra games series (King's quest, Space Quest, etc.) and it was always a weekend event at one of my friend's houses who had it. I think it took us 6 months to complete, since we only had limited weekend time (we mostly played outside - kids those days!)[honorable mention - Maniac Mansion]

Street Fighter (Arcade, SNES) (1987)

Another arcade favorite the one on one bragging rights was a blast. Learning the combos, fighting friends (and arcade enemies) for the right to stay on the machine for the next challenger... flipping a coin for the left or right hand side. All sorts of home field advantages. [Honorable mention: Mortal Combat]

Star control 2 (PC) (1992)

Exploration, adventure, discovery. Space. Has anyone come close since? I am avoiding throwing my money at Star Citizen yet watching it closely. That is a completely separate blog post. [Honorable Mention: Wing Commander. If only for the space.]

Doom (PC) (1993)

We had huge contests at university with Doom - inter dorm rivalries. My philosophy class suffered fiercely. I made a philosophical argument about augmented reality to the prof and he BFG'd me. University was so cool. [Honorable mention: Half Life]

NHL 94 (SEGA) (1993)

Oh Sega hockey, with the one move that would score 100% of the time.. that was up to you do defend properly. Both ends of the rink, there was that ONE move. Yet it was still awesome. Plus bleeding heads.

X com (PC) (1994)

Turn based mastery. This is on many 'best of ever" lists, so not going to explain its full awesome-ness. Many have explained it better than I ever could. Xcom is the perfect example of a game you loved but refuse to play it again. I have it through steam. It sucked to relive it - but awesome the first time around. We are not conditioned to accept failing the first X missions before we have a chance. (see what I did there?) [Honorable mention - Civ 1 - bit of a stretch, but very turn based]

Baldur's Gate (PC) (1998)

I had played a lot of Pen and Paper games and this one reminded me the most of them. I hadn't played a lot of D&D at the time  and this was my first real foray and experience into that. I don't even remember if I won or what happened in the game - I just remember the hours spent hunched in the darkness... in amazement. Just one more encounter. One more.

Rainbow Six (PC) (1998)

The AI could be buggy as hell when you were planning your rescues, but this was an AMAZING shooter - one shot and you are dead, get caught/spotted and the hostages are dead. Great premise and superbly executed at the time. You could do many missions in many different ways and had the choice of your own path. The planning and thinking part was as exciting for me as the executions. And oh yes, permadeath! [Honorable mention: Counter Strike]

Everquest (PC) (1999)

The MMO game changer that has spawned 100 clones, for better or for worse (often better, jaded vets may argue worse. It doesn't even matter anymore. It was awesome and really kickstarted the genre.) It has ruined MMOs for me since, but that is also because of the testserver play environment (hint: community). The rose colored glasses often adorned!

Sims (PC) (2000)

Sims the original was the first game that I could get my girlfriends to play. And my non-gaming roommates. It was the first time I realized games could be for everyone. Then I invented the Wii. (or should have, at least). All that being said, I am pretty sure the things my girlfriend at the time did to the Sims (or tried to do) made me realize that maybe she wasn't the one. Sicko. May have saved my life.

Dark Age of Camelot (PC) (2001)

My second MMO I played the heck out of and my first real PVP experience was also amazing. I also played on the testserver (Pendragon) and the strength of the community there really improved the overall experience. Sadly, game developers have learned that test servers make bad for the quick hitting types of testing they want with enough sample size, and they don't really exist anymore. The lesson they should have learned is that smaller, more dedicated communities make for stronger ties. Another post. DAOC taught me to embrace PVP and how humans always beat AI on experience - always.

World of Warcraft (PC) (2004)

What to say? The most successful MMO ever made took an inaccessible genre and made it easy for everyone to participate. While I have spent my fair share of time arguing WoW has hurt the MMO space in many ways, you cannot argue against its influence. I still go back every expansion, do the theme park rides, /hug and /hi to my friends still playing, and then out again.  I think the next MMO Blizzard makes is going to say a lot about what they have learned from WoW. I'm intrigued.

Battlefield 2142 (PC) (2006)

The multiplayer FPS I judge all other FPSs against. It was great. It was better than great - it was awesome. The kits, the vehicles, everything. COD always felt too twitchy and gamey in comparison (even the DICE successors did) and I started playing more strategic, slower paced shooters afterwards. BF2142 was just the perfect balance for *me*. [Honorable Mention: Project Reality]

That's It!

There is my list! Crazy, and a *bit* sad that the most recent game launch on my list is 8 years old already, but influence is influence. As I re-read this there were a few I wanted to add (RTS such as Warcraft -or- Command & Conquer) but I decided to keep it pure - the ones that spoke to me first. I'm sure as I read through other's lists I'll have many an "aha!" moment. I hope mine brought along some positive smiles and memories!


Askimet Showing Cracks?

Askimet has been a great, free, spam stopper on this blog since I started it in 2008. In fact, it has stopped 62,479 comments from being spam. (which is ~62x the REAL comments I have received!)

Lately I am squashing spam comments that are sneaking through - and I have rarely ever had to do that. Is anyone else noticing this as a trend, or am I just going through a string of bad luck?

I'm very thankful and mostly just curious if there is something else I should be doing.



Filed under: General No Comments

Dry Spells and Random Stuffs

This happens to me often with gaming - I hit dry spells.

This occurs when life gets too busy and/or games get a bit dry for me. Thankfully, right now I am in the former - just busy. This, in turn, makes blogging more challenging because if you aren't playing then there's not much to talk about. And if you do have time you would rather be playing instead of writing about it.

We call these, "first world problems".

I'm 25 rubicite away from the final crafting upgrade in EQN:L and its probably a solid 3 hour burn/zengrind. Excitedly, there is a patch on Thursday that promises new biomes - SNOW! I love the outdoors and my favorite backdrop is a lake, but also love winter sports/shenanigans so hey, I'll take a frozen lake and snow. This raises a couple quick conundrums.

One is that I like my claim, and where I am. There is a ton to do with it and we are only a couple patches away from claim expansions which makes it a whole new world for building. My good friend Mehlan has joined the game and claimed beside me so logging in now I find him there, waddling away, so I can say hi and hang out. So for those two reasons alone, not moving.

The second is hopefully they have meaningful seasons - has any game? I don't recall. Why can't I have my lakeside cottage.. and winter wonderland for half the time? Something tells me to add that to the "captain obvious yet awesome" list of what would make the same-old MMO the new-awesome MMO. (See: combat mechanics, leveling mechanics, endgame content, equipment issues . etc.)

Oh, EQN:L tip if you are feeling lonesome, /join general (chat) - people are connecting there and always a stream of chatter. Makes the nights fly by.

I'm starting to wonder if I really am done entirely with World of Warcraft - usually I play out the expansion to the end but the daily grind of the uh, daily grind quests of MoP had me leaving early in the expansion. Now I feel less connected to WoW than ever and I wonder if that slide means the end and no Warlords of Draenor for me. My friends still play and I miss their chatter (and envy their dedication).

I didn't get far in Diablo III - level 20 I think? Before I realized this game wasn't as fun as the first two. The potion chugging loot-fest just got boring fast. I heard there have been some nice changes so I may check it out again. I did pay for it, after all. Something tells me I may like the Crusader class but there better be a trial or something - not shelling out more for a game that didn't capture me in the first place.

Speaking of games I didn't finish/start, GW2. Level 37 was my breaking point. I read a lot of bloggers who love it but I now feel I am so far behind the story that I missed out on the game. Is that the danger of too many updates?

I was >< that close to becoming a LOTRO blog for a while and even queued up the Warden (after much bitching about it) but alas, right now its EQN:L or bust. And bust it is.

Again, the worries and problems of a modern day adult gamer. Too much to do, not as much time to do it. Somehow manage to blog about it though.


Corporate Governance

This sat in drafts and I never got around to finishing it. Now the info is really outdated, but still - wanted to talk about companies that make games really briefly.

First, we have this nice reminder of EA being voted worst company to work for (again)

Then, we have FUNCOM being raided for suspected wrongdoings

Add in a whole bunch of short-term stock thinking, churn and burn/crunchtime production mentality and man, I can't help but think:

Is it really a surprise we get crappy games?

Then I read this gem from over at Valve - their awesome employee handbook

And this - the Bteam website

Is Corporate (North) America ready for an epic showdown? Is it all coming to a head as hard working humans reject that they need to be taken advantage of to earn a living?

Can we have purpose AND profits?

(side note: go read Tony Hsieh - Delivering Happiness)