Thanks for Playing: MMO Loyalty Programs
Does your MMO go above and beyond to keep your business? These days, most of us would settle for a game that has enough content or provides a reason to log in after a few weeks. When things are going great, though, should MMO companies provide incentives to keep people playing beyond just ‘the game?’
I’m a fan of loyalty programs. They give players something extra, and decrease buyer power (make it harder to switch to another game). Years ago, I remember Star Wars Galaxies handing out rare collectibles to reward players for subscribing. I think the rewards were every 3-6 months (someone correct me) and were pretty neat little doodads to place in your house.
The gifts have to be substantial or else they’re useless tchotchkes. A barely visible bauble isn’t as cool as a massive painting or rug. A clickable item that shoots a firework every 30 minutes isn’t as neat as an aura that makes you glow colored flames permanently. I’ve received some fairly awful rewards for being a player that only made me feel bad when I deleted them to make room for more important things in my inventory. People like cool stuff.
How about discounts? If someone has been a subscriber for a year and shown they are loyal, why not give them a discount on the upcoming expansion or toss them a free month? The point here is to show the players that they are individually appreciated. One argument against giving things to current players is that you’re basically giving up money to people who might be perfectly content and planning to stay anyway. That is very true, but isn’t giving up a few bucks worth the chance of creating a loyal player? Discounts or financial rewards are much less prescribed than giving out digital items, but I believe in companies showing their players they care about more than the money they bring in once a month.
Another idea I’ve been toying with is a club program. If someone has subscribed for six consecutive months they gain access to a special location in-game, special forum access, and recognition as members of this club with in-game cosmetics like a tabard or effect. This club might provide guaranteed beta access to future games/expansions, VIP test server access, or something else exclusive. This idea needs refinement, but these are the most loyal players and should be able to show it.
Reward players for attending real life fan events, conventions, or even having an active account during a particular patch. Reactivation awards, awards for having a subscription before a certain date, and rewards for simply participating in events in-game are all ways to increase the loyalty of players.
Lastly, time is a huge factor with reward programs. Most MMO companies wait years before instituting one. I think they should start much sooner — at most, a matter of months after launch. It’s never too early to begin implementing simple acts to retain customers and increase profitability.