As part of my academic studies I’ve been reading about sunk costs recently (wikipedia definition) relating to whether prior investments in something affects your rational decisions made about the future. This concept got me thinking about a player’s “investment” in an MMO and how this might impact their willingness to try another or to get as invested in another.
For example World of Warcraft, despite years of speculation over “WoW-killers”, it remains the runaway behemoth of the genre. How much may this be down to the sunk cost for so many players, the years they have spent developing their characters and social groups in that game?
From my own personal experience I’ve not really settled into another game as deeply as I did for 5+ years in WoW. The depth to my gameplay experience for those years was due to a combination of immersion, familiarity, social ties and affection for my characters. Thinking about all the other MMORPGs that I’ve played since I haven’t had all four of those factors to the same level in another game yet. I may feel immersed in a game (TSW), have a good guild (DDO), a strong sense of familiarity in another (LOTRO) or strong affection for a character (e.g. my Asuran Mesmer in GW2) but not all four.
So the more we play a game the easier it is, in many ways, to go back. I’ve read in the last week several “I’m back” posts by other bloggers and these issues come up in their descriptions of fitting back into the game. Do the sunk costs of our gaming time and memories act as a barrier to joining and enjoying other, rival games to the same extent?