I was inspired to examine MMO gaming literature when came across a request for participation in an academic survey on MMO’s in 2004 by Dr Nick Yee, a sociological researcher at New York State University. This led to me examining further the academic work on MMO’s by Ed Castronova who examined an MMORPG from a purely economic perspective. What interested me from this initial pass of the literature was, as a business academic, the lack of business orientated research regarding these businesses which were at the time generating sizeable and increasing volumes in subscription revenues. This moved me to examine further the computer game industry journals and publications, and it became obvious from this reading that, apart from technological computing advances, the computer gaming industry had very little regard for academia in general as it failed to treat them as serious business people and they failed to see the business applicability of the research.
From the perspective of someone on the inside, the average piece of academicAs a business lecturer therefore I was interested at the lack of business research on what I perceived to be a profitable business model with professionals who, frankly, saw academia in general as providing useless research. I perceived both a gap in the literature where a lack of solid instrumentally focused business research seemed to be, and this was also a corresponding gap between what academics where providing and what business professionals wanted. Indeed, I firmly believe that future research into this industry needs to be conducted and two hurdles overcome. Firstly, researchers must address the expressed desire from games designers for research which is useful and instrumental. Hopson (2006) makes clear; “the games industry isn’t listening” (p.1), researchers must reflect on the idea that maybe this is because they just aren’t publishing anything which is actually of use to the games industry, or worth listening to. Secondly, there must be greater involvement and engagement from the games industry with researchers. My study found insurmountable hurdles in gaining access to information, and while competitive advantage and confidentiality issues need to be addressed to reassure game developers,the potential usefulness of business research to the games industry shouldn’t be stifled by them.
games research just doesn’t get the job done. It’s not a question of quality of
the research or the intelligence of the researcher or the game maker; it’s a
question on bridging the gap between the academic and business cultures. (Hopson,
Having identified a gap in the literature, which was the lack of academic examination of the MMO gaming companies and their products as businesses, the research questions started to take form. These research questions emerged from both the gap in the literature and subsequent examination of the professional and industry literature regarding computer games as a business. In particular the numerous industry papers of the International Game Developer Association (2002) and (2004) in particular gave excellent insights into the importance of customer retention to the online gaming business model. This is also discussed in the industry paper by Dooselaer and Coopers (2003) who neatly captures the importance of long term customer relationships to the business models used by online games. From examining the industry literature it thus became clear that the MMO gaming business revolved around the importance of customer re-subscription. From this a instrumentally orientated research aim and the three underlying research questions emerged.
What affects and influences the customer decision to re-subscribe to their chosen MMORPG entertainment product?
Firstly, which of the relationship marketing customer service constructs identified from the literature are important in the re-subscription decision made by customers? Secondly, are there relevant factors in the context which affect these customer service constructs? And finally, how do the key constructs interact to influence the re-subscription decision?