The Need to Produce Content

When you're building a single-player game to be sold in retail stores, your job gen­erally finishes when the gold master disc goes off to manufacturing. The players buy the game and you can go off to work on another project.

Online games don't work this way; they earn money either through advertising rev­enue, micropayments, or subscriptions. To keep people interested, you have to change things, and that means producing new content on an ongoing basis. This is expensive for the service provider and ties up skilled development staff. The prob­lem is most obvious with persistent worlds, but even simple games need to be kept fresh. Mafia Wars, a popular browser game available via the Facebook social net­working web site, does not use 3D graphical environments or sounds, but the developers regularly add new gear for players to buy and things for them to do.

Customer Service

All game companies require customer service staff to help players with problems, but online games need far, far more of them. With offline games, players mostly need help with technical difficulties; for gameplay problems, they can buy strategy guides or find hints on the Internet. But in a live, online environment, players expect to get help immediately, and they demand help for a much larger range of issues than they do in offline games. Players expect customer service people not only to solve technical problems but also to explain the user interface, answer ques­tions about game content, and enforce justice by investigating and punishing misbehavior by other players. With thousands of players logged on at any one time, providing these services can become very expensive.

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