MMO Development Lesson #27

Make it easy to come back. If someone has quit your game (See: Lesson #26), make it so easy to come back they can’t believe they quit in the first place. I’ll apologize right now for not making this lesson short and sweet like I usually do, but this one’s worth elaborating on. I’ll start with what you shouldn’t do, then I’ll give a few ideas for what you could do to make coming back easier than ever.

First off, playground peer pressure doesn’t work, and it’s just a bad idea in the first place. Your former players don’t like being talked down to when they’ve already quit your game any more than you liked being talked down to by an AOL customer service rep circa 1992. That talking down to is a (fortunately) unique case, but it’s worth noting so nobody else pulls such a foolish stunt.

Second, don’t sound too desperate. Nobody likes it when someone sounds desperate, and it’s really not a very good motivator. Don’t try to butter players up and make them feel like they owe you a second chance, because they don’t. You owe them.

Next up, don’t get rid of incentives that you used to bring players in. For example, if you rewarded pre-order customers with a reduced subscription rate of $10/month, but increase that to $15 if they quit and resubscribe, that’s not a good idea. I’m calling you out here, LotRO (actually, Genda is). Reward them for pre-ordering your game forever, not for a brief period of time. Doing that left a bad taste in the mouth of a number of people I know (including myself) who will not resubscribe to the game because of it. And, if you have any other incentives given to a player for any other reason, don’t strip them from players for quitting.

Now, here’s the most important rule. Clear your mind and be ready to absorb this. Never. Ever. EVER. NEVER delete someone’s character. There is no excuse for deleting a character someone has spent time developing and becoming attached to. If you ever delete my character, I will never ever resubscribe to your game. I’m looking at you FFXI. Yeah, I’m calling you out. If you ever delete a character, it better be one that they haven’t spent much time on (less than a few hours).

Honestly, that’s the main don’t. That’s the dumbest thing you can do when it comes to player reacquisition. On to a few recommendations…

Don’t make a person use a credit card to resubscribe. Give them some free time to try the game out again after they’ve been unsubscribed for a month or so. No credit card needed, just the game and their username/password.

I’d also suggest that you send them an email 60-90 days after they quit. But again, don’t tell them they are losers and don’t sound desperate. Make it short and sweet.

“Hello, [character with most playtime’s name]! [iconic character name] hasn’t seen you around for [number of days]. He offers you 7 free days of play time if you reactivate your account within the next 30 days. If you don’t have the install discs anymore, you can download the game here. And hey, if you want to bring some friends along, here are 5 buddy keys so your friends can try [insert game name here] out with you!”

Then list all of the pertinent game updates since they left. All the headlines from your update notes since the day they quit. Finish it off with something like, “We look forward to seeing you in [insert world name] again soon!”

The important information to absorb: Make it free. Make it easy to download. Don’t make them put their credit card number in. Give them buddy keys so their friends can play with them. Tell them what’s gone on since they left.

You can feel free to pull a few more tricks from up your sleeve too. You already know what character they played more than any other. Do you have a screenshot or portrait of that character? If you have a service like EQ2Players or portraits like WoW, you probably do. Put it in the letter. They’ll see that and remember some of the good times they had. And you should give them a link they can click on to give you feedback (and let them send feedback throughout the entire free resub period).

So, there you go. That’s a lot more than most companies do to make it super easy for a player to come back to your game. And, if you made cancellation easy, they won’t have as bad of a taste in their mouth about your game as they otherwise would, and may even consider trying it again to see how much more fun it is than when they left.

Oh, and did I mention that you should never delete their characters? Yeah, don’t.

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