Building an MMO with mass appeal: a look at gameplay in World of Warcraft
World of Warcraft (WoW) is undeniably one of the most popular massively multiplayer game to date, with more than 6 million subscribers worldwide. In this paper, we use data collected with automated "bots" from five servers to explore how WoW functions as a game. We focus on metrics reflecting a player's gaming experience: how long they play, how quickly they progress, how each character class and race compares with others, etc. Based on 8 months of data, we discuss how Blizzard™'s carefully crafted reward structure impacts a player's commitment to the game; how the player's preference for certain races, classes, and genders creates interesting imbalances that reflect stereotypical norms from the real-world, and partition players into groups with varying backgrounds and aspirations; and finally how players "consume" the content that is offered to them, with a particular focus on the end-game at level 60 and the impact of player-versus-player-combat. Our data provides a refined picture of WoW, clarifying how it differs from and resembles its predecessors in the MMO genre. In several places, it also raises questions about WoW's future growth and, more generally, about the ability of the MMO genre to evolve beyond its current familiar template.
Ducheneaut, N. ; Yee, N. ; Nickell, E. ; Moore, R. J. Building an MMO with mass appeal: a look at gameplay in World of Warcraft. Games & Culture. 2006 October; 1 (4): 281-317.