Players of Online Games love to group with others to accomplish goals and most important of all to have a good time in company with likeminded people. From a developer’s point of view, these players have a huge impact on the success of a game. We at the Innogames analytics department know that players in a clan or guild play longer, more intensively and as a result might also invest more money than players which are not organized in a group. But why is that? What is the reason that people organize in a virtual group spending many hours talking and playing with their clan mates each and every day?
First of all let me illustrate the phenomenon and show you what we mean by “more engaged” players. From the feedback players provide us with in forums, surveys or social networks, we learned that clan and guild players are our most engaged audience group. They are the first to let us know if they like or dislike new aspects of a game or an update and we also rely on their opinion for upcoming features or new games, for example for the development of Tribal Wars 2.
But besides these soft facts, there are also many hard facts which we can measure when we talk about clan and guild players. If players are organized, they tend to play significantly more than any other player group: On average a non-guild player invests 3 to 4 hours per week in one of our top titles Forge of Empires or Grepolis. Regarding a guild player, the average playtime doubles to 8 hours! This is even beaten by creators of clans and guilds, a guild founder invests triple the time of a non-guild player, on average 12 hours per week.
But this engagement is not only visible in playtime, guild players are also socially active on a high level. They communicate much more than non-guild players. Guild players send 14 messages, founders even 23 messages on average every week, compared to 2 to 3 messages of non-guild players.
Besides being socializers, guild players can also be quite aggressive. Based on the number of attack events per week, guild players fight almost three times more than non-guild players. Again, at the top we find the guild founders with almost four times the fight events of a non-guild player.
Social Value of Guilds
Now that we know how strong the impact of a guild on players is, the question remains why that is and why players love to group with others.
Despite the still existing reservations about online established relationships, an online gaming group is nothing more than any other social group we like to participate in. It fulfills the basic human need to ‘belong’ to a group of people with similar interests and goals:
“One of the most basic of these interpersonal needs is to ’belong’, to be a member
of a group of people with similar interests and goals who value you as a member
(…)” (McKenna & Bargh, 1999, S. 250)
The reason for the reservations derives from the fact that there is no direct face to face communication. But studies have shown that relationships established via computer mediated communication can be as strong as relationships that started face to face. There is even the chance that these relationships can be stronger, because the lack of physical presence encourages disclosing personal feelings. Therefore, it is also no surprise that online relationships are as long lasting as every other relationship established in the offline world. People who meet in a clan or guild in particular have also the advantage that they share a common interest in gaming which also helps to get in touch with each other and to find a meaningful interpersonal relationship.
In a study conducted by myself during my academic studies, I asked 1700 members of clans and guilds how they perceive their gaming group and what benefits they get from interacting with their clan and guild mates.
The results from that survey show that there are four social functions of clans and guild which stand out.
The most important social aspect of gaming groups is friendship. Gamers like to get to know people and keep them in their lives as friends. But also the ability to talk about everyday life is important and related to the function of relationships.
Acceptance as a social function is the deep human desire which gaming groups can fulfill: the wish of being acknowledged, of having a social group which one can trust. Clan members value that they do not need to pretend to be someone else but can be as they are.
3. Ego Reward
Ego Reward is the only one of the four functions which is located in the area of competition. The success of clans rewards members, they feel proud of what they are doing. The Ego Reward is important to prove to others that the engagement, playing long hours and investing work and energy, is worth doing it.
4. Sense of belonging
Sense of belonging is in some way like having a home in the online world. Players want to be a member in a team in which everybody shares common goals and in which one helps another. They want to do something which is perceived as meaningful. It is also the exclusiveness of the group because not everyone can join a guild and if one is accepted, he is rewarded with the status of being a member.
These four functions describe why so many gamers join clans, guilds or teams and why they put so much effort, energy and engagement into their group. Of course, the characteristics vary, not everyone does find true friendship or want to find it. Still, most of the players who are engaged will identify themselves with most of the aspects mentioned. Also these functions underline why gaming and being part of a gaming related social group is not limited to young people, since these are social needs all age groups can agree on.
Lesson learned at InnoGames
Even though we at Innogames cannot encourage our players to establish friendships or a social place to belong to, we surely can help to create an infrastructure for all these social interactions. There is for example a strong policy at Innogames to have real collaborative gameplay in all existing and upcoming game projects.
This means that every game has to have basic features like the ability to create a clan, guild or group. It also includes the possibility to talk privately to the clan members, for example in a special ingame forum which is only accessible for members. On top of that, it’s the game design and game features that encourage the need to form groups and to make sense out of a gaming group. Because – let us be clear here – the game and the fun of it always comes first. If the game is no fun at all, nobody would care to stick with the game and join a group. And if one only seeks relationships or even want to find a boy- or girlfriend, there are other options available in the web.
Because the fun of a game and the game features are the source for all the social interaction, we try to strengthen the social infrastructure of our games with small and bigger features. Just recently Forge of Empires launched the major Guild vs. Guild Feature which led to a massive increase of players joining guilds. But also smaller game features like the new alliance finder in Grepolis helps players to find friends and of course also helps the game itself to create more interaction between players. All this leads to more fun for everyone playing.