Why People Continue to Play Online Games: In Search of Critical Design Factors to Increase Customer Loyalty to Online Contents DONGSEONG CHOI, Ph.D., and JINWOO KIM, M.S.
ABSTRACT As people increasingly play online games, numerous new features have been proposed to increase players’ log-on time at online gaming sites. However, few studies have investigated why people continue to play certain online games or which design features are most closely related to the amount of time spent by players at particular online gaming sites. This study proposes a theoretical model using the concepts of customer loyalty, flow, personal interaction, and social interaction to explain why people continue to play online network games. The study then conducts a large-scale survey to validate the model. Finally, it analyzes current online games to identify design features that are closely related to the theoretical concepts. The results indicate that people continue to play online games if they have optimal experiences while playing the games. This optimal experience can be attained if the player has effective personal interaction with the system or pleasant social interactions with other people connected to the Internet. Personal interaction can be facilitated by providing appropriate goals, operators and feedback; social interaction can be facilitated through appropriate communication places and tools. This paper ends with the implications of applying the study results to other domains such as e-commerce and cyber communities.
has spread into our society on a broad scale, it has been used to trade various kinds of contents.1 One of the most popular online contents is the game, in which a person can play not only with the computer, but also with other people connected via the Internet.2,3 For example, a recent study on the use of the Internet showed that PC owners spent an average of 20 h per week on the internet for personal use, 48% of which was to play online games.4 Accordingly, the market for on-
S THE INTERNET
line gaming has rapidly expanded from $770 million in 1988 to $2.06 billion in 2001.5 Because the online game market goes up and people usually pay fees to play online games according to game playing time, developers try to increase the duration of online game playing time by making a new online game using new techniques. Numerous techniques and features have been suggested to make gamers want to return to the online games repeatedly.5 For example, several studies are being conducted to determine the effect of improving the graphics used in the games on game play-
HCI Laboratory, Yonsei University, Seoul, Korea.
CHOI AND KIM
ing time;6,7 other studies are proposing new audio techniques for better sound quality in online games.8–10 Choosing the most appropriate technical features among the myriad of newly suggested techniques for an online game being developed becomes a challenging if not impossible task. Research on game playing time may have significant implications for increasing customer loyalty of online contents businesses in general. It is important for online contents businesses to ensure that customers visit their sites repeatedly because the number of loyal customers who frequently visit their site determines their value.11 If none of the customers are willing to visit the site again, its business value becomes worthless despite its technical or managerial assets. Online game has been quite successful in maintaining an extremely high level of customer loyalty to the degree of addiction.12 Therefore, the reasons why people keep playing the same online game repeatedly and the design features that lead them to have such a high loyalty may be used to increase the customer loyalty for other online contents businesses such as distance learning. Despite the high potential of online games and the...