Friday, February 12, 2010

mmorpgs: heavy personal investment before you even know if you like a game

It struck me the other day, about world of warcraft or pretty much any other mmorpg, how they have an 'invest in the product before you even know if you like it' structure.

Eventually top level raiding is what your either going to end up at, by design, or you will have quit.

But do you know if you'll like that? No, you have to plug in 300 hours or so for something you don't even know if you like.

Heck, even if you had to plug in one hour to find out whether the main part of the game is for you, that wouldn't work.

So why's it work? Well the classic mmorpg doesn't present itself that way - the first few levels seem to go by at the same sort of speed a single player game would. So compared to if you were playing a single player game, you seem to be playing the game.

But then it slows down'd be throwing away all that effort and why not play a bit longer, eh?

And pretty soon you've invested in a game you don't know if you'd actually like. It's like pre ordering a game and can't get your money back, but then trying to think about not playing...not gunna happen, is it?

The critical thing here is once your invested in something, psychologically your more likely to think it's good. It's hard to be invested in something yet then genuinely critically analyse it.

By hooking players into investing heavily well before they see a product, they effectively turn off the players critical analysis.

Imagine just playing a raid on the first day of playing a game. You'd think about whether you like it.

Now imagine having invested 300 hours to get to the raid. Are you really going to think 'Oh, nah, don't like this'?

That 300 hours is likely to have you play a game you normally wouldn't find fun (enough) to play.


  1. Absolutely. This is what makes the subscription model tick.

  2. One of my friends had to force himself to quit WoW because it was starting to affect his life. For such an addicting game, it has some pretty dumb crap in it (e.g. can't chat with Horde players if you're in the Alliance, etc.).

    Great post, by the way. This phenomenon seems to be similar to the Sunk Cost Fallacy mentioned on TV Tropes' "You Fail Logic Forever" page.