Tobold's Blog
Monday, October 15, 2007
Adults only

Please do not continue reading if you are under 18! You have been warned!

Today I'm going to talk about something dirty: Money. And age. And the connection between money, age, and MMORPGs. You might have noticed that most of my reporting is about relatively expensive games like World of Warcraft: $50 a box to buy, $15 a month to play. I'm barely ever mentioning Guild Wars, and don't touch most free-to-play browser MMORPGs. At best I play those for an hour, write a few lines, and then forget about them.

So I was thinking why I disliked these games. I'm not a graphics snob. In fact I liked the 2D colorful manga graphics of Dofus better than the uncanny valley pseudo-photorealistic graphics of EQ2 (I had to switch EQ2 to more comic style alternate graphics to play it). It can't be a question of gameplay either, because there isn't too much of a difference between free-to-play MMORPGs and triple-AAA MMORPGs in that respect. Some free-to-play games are actually more innovative there than the big games. But where there is a big difference in quality is in the maturity of the players. There are too many kids in the free-to-play games, and the result is unpleasant. The more kids you have in the game, the worse is the quality of the general chat, the more you have players disrespecting the rules, and the worse the attitude gets. If somebody judges you as "cool" or "noob" only by your level and gear, he is probably under 18.

I mentioned that the marketing people from Dofus had sent me a presentation of their game with some demographic statistics: 65% of players being 18 or under, and only 7.5% of players over 31. Compare that to Nick Yee's studies on the demographics of monthly fee MMORPGs: He found a third of the male players and over half of the female players are 29 or over, and only 20% of the male players and 4.4% of the female players are under 18 years old. He also found that over 50% of the players worked full-time. The reason for that is simple: Money. For an adult working full-time, $15 a month is pocket change. For a kid it isn't. The kid in most cases need to argue with his parents to be allowed to play a monthly fee game, but he can download and play all those play-for-free games without the parents even noticing. There is a barrier to entry biased against younger players in monthly fee games, and that keeps the community of these games more mature.

Now I am wondering about the viability of making games even more expensive and adult-oriented. No, not by adding sex to them. But I've noticed a trend of some companies trying to make more twitchy action-MMORPGs, and I don't think those will sell all that well to the over 30 demographics. But I could imagine a MMORPG with more tactical gameplay, more thinking, less twitching, more community tools, more "world" elements, in short being more suited to what adults are looking for in a MMORPG. And if that game was good, I wouldn't mind paying a monthly fee of $25 instead of $15. The higher fee would serve the dual purpose of making this more niche game financially viable, and keeping an even larger percentage of kids out. Hey kid, look over there, there is a twitchy action-game, and it's cheaper, go play over there!

[If this post upset you, you are probably under 18. Don't say I didn't warn you!]
Take it a step further. A normal WoW, LotRO or EQ game, but ran on a server with a higher subscription fee *just* to keep the kiddies out. I'd love it.

Then again, I'm also for a retro-WoW server without Burning Crusade. I'd enlist today to go grind MC, BWL, AQ40 and Naxx again like in the good ol' days.

- Sveral
Totally agreed, but $15 are quite a bit in South Africa, where cost of living currency wise is very low. But adult servers must work at least.

Thats why in wow we have an above 20 age guild and it works like a charm.
Our guild doesn't have an age barrier, but it does have a behaviour policy, so most of our players tend to be over 20.

We also play on a PvE RP server, which does help, although Blizzard in their wisdom made our server a "Recommended" realm for new starters at one time, so inevitably we ended up with a lot of immature players, who knew nothing about RP, joining it.
Being in a good mature guild can help a lot. I was lucky to stumble upon a fabulous "over 30's only" alliance in Guild Wars. With over 800 mature members there is always someone to chat to and I can happily turn off general chat and live only in in guild space. I think that being involved with this group greatly enhanced my GW experience. Its not that I have anything against kids as players - many of them are more skilled than I am. Its just that I don't have a lot in common with teenagers to talk about. Also there is the question of acceptable behaviour when between adult and other people kids and when I am relaxing playing games I prefer not to have to worry about that.
On the other hand, having kids playing the $15 game with the parent's consent is more acceptable than leaving them on their own in their gaming experience. I mean, the content is somewhat more 'mature' and moderated, even though the chat may get a bit rowdy at times.

I have 4 kids myself, 3 of which play WoW on my money regularily. Because I pay for it, I have to know what they are doing. No objections from their side as of yet, and I think even they appreciate the fact that I'm interested on what they are doing and where they are roaming.

At the same time my kids'friends play the free games and have been approached by some shady player characters asking very improper things, suggesting this and that and are telling pretty horrendous things happening in the free game world.

Also there are kids whose parents don't care what the kids do as long as they don't have to pay, so the piracy of all sorts is alive. For this group the age tag is an invitation and I've heard that they are looking forward to Hellgate, Clive Barker's Jericho and sorts which I wouldn't let my kids play for some years, at least at home (oldest is 13).

So I'm all for the parents pay for the games kids play, as long as the parents are interested on what the kids really play. Parents are usually interested of their kids hobbies anyhow, why aren't they interested in their kids computer use? It's a hobby, too!

I don't need that retro server: I'm ready to plunder the Old World instances anytime! Just call on me!!

To tell the truth, I have found the late teens to early twenties males to be the worst demographic. The younger kids tend to behave decently in presense of grown ups, but young men tend to think they are the center of the universe and know everything. I also see an adult's categoric contempt of children as a sign of immaturity on the adult's part - I sign he hasn't grown up. It is also disheartening when your guild breaks up, and you hear the young but well behaving members complain that the game is basically over to them, since they can not get into a new guild simply because of their age.

(Please note I don't see categoric contempt of children in Tobold's post) :)
I like idea of 'more mature' game on the side of tactics and thinking. Hope World of Starcraft (I love Blizzard games) will came in several years and give us more of this kind.
I agree with copra's post. Kids need to be controlled, and while i disagree with kids under 15 years old playing computer AT ALL (health is the most important thing, better play ball), it is much better than thouse free games. A bit hard to preserve kids from computer this time...
In WoW there were issues even on high-levels (low-levels are full of it) with some 'immature' behavior of players, but, in fact it does not bother me too much. I play on 'recommended' server, and it has some advantages: i can remember almost every high-level 'immature' character and just will not group with them, cause they aren't good players at all in the same time (90%). I have big list of really nice people, and they are great players as well. I don't raid, maybe in a raid situation it would be harder to ignore them, but now it is pretty easy.
Not a bad idea in theory... but depressing to think that with the technology available to us the only way to keep kids out would be to raise prices for adults. I can't believe some kind of age verification process would eliminate the need to raise prices. Obviously a few would get through the cracks (they always do), but c'mon.
Basically, what I think you're saying is that you'll happily pay more than 15 a month if you think the mmorpg is worth it. Well, you'll eventually get that chance. I'd say the odds are pretty damned good that Blizzard's next mmorpg will be more than 15 a month.

Just curious, did you play on Legends?
Nope, but Legends was only marginally better than the regular servers, basically the same game for a higher price.
I used to agree with this sentiment tobold. Being 41 myself. Me my wife and my 16 year old son used to all play wow together. When we all ended up in the same guild and I started discovering the actual ages of some of our guildies. I began to see a disturbing pattern. the 13 to 16 year olds where trying very hard to be "adult" and usually acted pretty well. It was the 20 to 27ish year olds that were the absolute worst as far as behaviour. It appeared to me that they were using wow as their stress relief valve. We had a 13 year old hunter who was more mature in game than her mother. And for the 2 years I played that pattern seemed to hold steady.
I have a deep distrust of guilds that are supposed to be mature due to age requirements.

In the first WoW guild I joined, the problems were with a lot of the younger players. A number got booted for immature behavior. However in my longer-term raiding guild it was people well over 30 that killed it. The 14-18 year olds would have instances of immaturity, but would shape up quickly when their inappropriate behavior was pointed out to them. The event that started our guild down the path to dissolution was when a class leader lied to our guild leader about one of our member's complaints - leading to a split in the guild. The last straw for our guild was when one of our main tanks threw a hissy fit due to being put in a different group than the one he wanted for an evening's runs. Both of these involved people who were well over 30. Age does not equal maturity!
I find that younger people can behave quite mature and that there are a bit older players (late teens and 20s mostly) that behave more immature. But this also depends on context - in a guild with many older players, the younger ones tend to behave more mature. In a guild with mainly younger players, the behaviour may be a bit different. Perhaps not always immature, but surely with less common ground with a bit older players - not really surprising.
One of the reasons I hope Conan is fun and successful is the Mature rating. This will keep the kiddies out. It should also help keep post-development costs down, as the types of banned content will be relatively limited compared to WoW. Here I am assuming that the vast majority of reported behavior in WoW is foul language, which should not be an issue in a Mature game. I also assume that every other WoW rule (posting real life info of players, various forms of harassment including racism/homophobia) will still apply.

Of course, these cost savings could be more than offset by the need to have an effective age verification system. Furthermore, they will probably need a group to handle post-subscription age verification. If someone says they are 14 in public chat, and they get reported, they will probably suspend the account and force the user to send proof of age via fax or mail before re-enabling the account.
I would love to play on a more mature server in most MMORPGs but I think just raising the subscription price wouldn't work. Instead I think a price hike would need to be combined with the presence of more GM's whould could actually ban people for immature behavior.

1) More strict EULA to highlight immature behavior

2) Higher subscription price to afford a higher GM to player ratio

3) Reporting system like the spam report system which could be used in conjunction with GM investigation to kick immature players.

4) Forced realm transfers to low population realms for kick players.

I guess this is really more complex then just raising the subscription price but I think it would alienate less people

Do you guys remember being a teen?
You advertise something as Mature and you'll get more teens. They'll come like lemmings just because they aren't supposed to be there. And how do you tell in an MMO whether they are teens or adults?
I know that EQ2 has alternative character models, but I did not know that it had a more comic style alternative for the landscape. Does anyone know how to enable this?
{I just started playing EQ2 a few weeks ago...)
A few weeks ago we made a realm forum post looking for "more Married working Schmoes" and like minded folks. Even though 7-8 idiots were the only ones who replied there, we had 5 incredibly awesome people come to our site to chat and joined. But we made no mention of an age requirement, and the result was a lot better than what I think we would have received if we had made an issue of it.

Fact is, we have our old farts and their children with us, but the kids act pretty good because they know the next time I go do a Heroic with their dad, any of us will bust their chops if they act like idiots.

I love the guild culture we have right now, moreso than at any time during my year of raiding. It's one of mutual respect above all. And our young members know it and abide by it.
I'm currently playing a free MMORPG called Rappelz. The community is actually superior to WoW's community since it's far smaller and a lot more niche. There are a lot of casual players in addition to hardcore players. I meet plenty of 21 and older folks, and I also belong to that category myself.

The only observation about people in free MMORPGs I can make is that there are a lot more people who aren't North American playing. I talk to people from European, South America, Asia and Australia when I'm in a party.

Don't be put off by free MMORPGs simply because they are free. They often attract a diverse group of people, far more so than the WoW crowd.
I think it is more important for game to be more DIFFICULT then more EXPENSIVE.
Maybe it can be done, what where will be 'heroic' version of WoW for example. Everyone can join Heroic dungeon party, but not everyone got enough 'maturity' to complete it...
Maybe there can be several 'heroic' servers with more difficult mobs and more complex quests, leveling there would be a test of skill, and killing raid-boss - a celebration to whole community... And there can be more GM to run some global events. And if it can be done - i am willing to pay more for this kind of game.
Game cant be dedicated for 'mature' people only, cause they are a minority, as i can see from my experience, and game must be profitable for its creators. But some dedicated instance or part of a game... It surely can be done. And if it probably will not bring more income, it can somehow 'renew' a game like WoW.
Perhaps we should have players prove their age so we don't get younger players trying to sneak into our mature area, huh? I personally feel that this whole obsession with age is quite silly on the whole, although imminently understandable.

Let me preface this by saying I am a 19 old male; Perhaps the very worst age you can get. As others have mentioned, children under 14 or so tend to be more mellow, and try and act more mature to fit in with others. The real trouble makers are those in their late teens and early twenties. The problem, I feel, is that maturity doesn't necessarily correlate to age, and when it does, it isn't completely linear.

Your actions in game are linked to why you are in that game in the first place. As was previously said, if you wanna let off some steam then you tend to be more rowdy and, dare I say it, immature. There are as many reasons to play as there are people however, and two people who are of the same age, gender, and hell, even friends with each other may act two completely contradictory ways merely because they both engage in the game with different assumptions or goals.

Generalization and stereotyping, and worse yet, measures to reinforce said things, are really not the way things should be dealt with. Just because the game costs more doesn't imply that the 28 year old who wants to forget about his tough day, get drunk, and make other people's lives miserable will stop playing. In fact, I feel it would most likely make it worse: You tend to pay more money when you are serious about the subject matter. A game like that would attract more "hardcore" players, not more casual players, and if you will excuse my hypocrisy for a moment in generalizing, most of the bad attitude doesn't come from casuals.

Indeed, why pay nearly twice as much for a game when you are going to spend the same 3 hours on it a week?

Now, obviously my opinion is biased, I am imminently affected by concepts such as this. And indeed, I may be the type of person you are trying to keep out, the poor college student who must make sacrifices to even play a pay-per-month game, so take this with a grain of salt. But trying your hardest to exclude a base is a losing proposition; WoW got to where it is now BECAUSE of it's accessibility, including accessibility to trouble makers. If you close gates to them, you also close gates to people who honestly don't deserve to have them closed.

The real answer? Well, there is no easy one. Having a close community tends to create a self-regulating environment; In FFXI, for example, if you an asshat or overly immature, world would go around and in time you would never be able to find a party. Indeed, your very ability to even level within the game hinges on being a good person to party with. The downsides to this are obvious, however. It's EXTREMELY limiting. Having a large community is in direct opposition to having a tight-knit one, and overall diversity wins out (Looking at subscription numbers).

You can also internally regulate your own community; Namely, your guild, linkshell, alliance, or what-have-you. The benefit here is that you can pick or choose you interact with on a regular basis, and those that don't fit what you want in your community can be removed. The downside is this isn't all-encompassing. Unless you are in an AMAZINGLY huge guild, you have to group outside your own comfort-zone sometime, and even if you don't, there is always chat channels. It's not foolproof.

I guess what I am trying to ramble on and on about is...trying to exclude people is a bad idea. I think I had a good conclusion warmed up but I forget it now and it's late, so here's a period.
The idea is not to exclude kids or do age verification (which would only serve to attract them). The idea is to offer MMORPGs in which the content is more attractive to mature people than to immature ones, with a different price tag to enhance the effect.

If your local cinema has two movies running at the same time, one being the latest Spiderman sequel for $10 entry, the other being lets say Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are dead for $15 entry, in which movie theatre would the average age be higher? And that is totally without excluding anyone to see the movie he wants. There are just different offers that are attractive to different groups of customers.
Tobold, Tobold. High prices ARE a way to exclude people, and the very fact you bring it up is a proof. It is a soft way of exclusion, since no one is flat out told "no", but the idea is to make barrier of entry higher to discourage some people.

Making content that appeals to more grown up demographic on the other hand about is serving your intended demographic, and not about excluding some groups.

I don't know the second movie you mentioned, but I think in your movie example even if you swapped the ticket prices, the audiences would remain the same (maybe a little less people seeing Spiderman).
I play on 2 Free-to-play (ie, Virtual Asset Purchase) games at the moment - 9Dragons and 2Moons (both Acclaim properties that are ports of Korean games).

9D has an age rating of 13+, and 2M has a mature rating - and yet the community on 2M is far more juvenile than 9D; more juvenile than any game I can remember playing. And the reason for that is precisely due to the 'mature' tag: because 2M is designed to be open PvP with lots of gorey animations, it attracts Zonkers - ie, exactly that sort of juvenile (if 16 and over) gamer that everyone else does their best to run screaming from.

My experience with 9D also suggests that it's not the business model that defines the age of the gamer (and thus the maturity of the community - where maturity means !juvenile, not !young) but the audience targetted by the game developers (not exactly a controversial statement, i accept).

Games like Habbo or Runescape a re popular with younger audiences not merely because they're free, but because of the game mechanics (easy to learn), the graphics (simple, colourful), the demands on the end-user machine (lightweight, thus suiting kid's hand-me-down PCs) and the gameplay (funny, cartoonish, simple).

Free to play games such as Rappelz or 9D have older demographics because of the content of the game, even though they're free; mutatis mutandis I would speculate that some of the factors behind the High Kid Count (where HKC is measured by juvenile behaviour, not age) are down to what makes WoW successful: low requirements on end-user machines and cartoonish graphics.

Of course, the simple fact of 9 million users leads to a HKC too, and is probably the determining factor in the last instance (juvenile behaviour being able to aggravate far out of proportion to its actual manifestation relative to other users).

and apologies if this turns out to be a double-post
If your local cinema has two movies running at the same time, one being the latest Spiderman sequel for $10 entry, the other being lets say Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are dead for $15 entry, in which movie theatre would the average age be higher? And that is totally without excluding anyone to see the movie he wants. There are just different offers that are attractive to different groups of customers.

Ah, but c'mon, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead would have a higher median age if it was $.35. If anything, content decides the median age, not the price, and your example just backs that up. Sadly, for some reason I doubt there are many MMORPG developers out there who say to themselves "Lets narrow our range of audiences to create a better community". It IS a novel idea, but not a money-making one.

I think at the end of the day all a price-hike would do is cater to fans of a series or genre. If the genre is the same and the series is new, then the cheaper one will most likely get more people period, of ALL age groups. I could agree that there will be more young people, but that is a silly statistic since there are more young people period. It's the same as saying "The alliance has more idiots" Sure; They also have more people on the whole, so of course they do.
Too bad most of the aforementioned behavior has little to do with age.
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