Mas­sively multi-player on­line games

Finweek English Edition - - Communication & Technology - BENE­DICT KELLY benk@fin­week.co.za

COM­PUTER GAM­ING is big busi­ness. Though in­dus­try gi­ants such as Mi­crosoft and Sony are bat­tling it out for supremacy in the con­sole gam­ing mar­ket in on­line gam­ing, there’s an en­tirely dif­fer­ent bat­tle be­ing waged. Through­out the In­ter­net, mil­lions of peo­ple are play­ing what are known as mas­sively multi-player on­line games (MMOs). The con­cept be­hind such games is it’s pos­si­ble for thou­sands of peo­ple to play to­gether in the same en­vi­ron­ment. While there are many dif­fer­ent gen­res of game un­der the MMO ban­ner, the most pop­u­lar are MMO role-play­ing games (MMORPG), such as World of War­craft, EVE On­line or Everquest.

Though peo­ple can ei­ther play against the game – as if they were the only per­son in­volved – the in­ten­tion is to cre­ate a so­cial en­vi­ron­ment where peo­ple work to­gether to com­plete tasks in the game (com­monly called “quests”). Those in­ter­ac­tions could be ca­sual, based on an im­me­di­ate need, but for more com­plex tasks play­ers tend to band to­gether into larger teams (called clans, guilds, cor­po­ra­tions or many other names, de­pend­ing on the game). Such teams could be a few friends or thou­sands of mem­bers, de­pend­ing on what the needs of the clan are.

Some games re­quire play­ers to pay a monthly fee, while oth­ers sim­ply re­quire that peo­ple buy the game. Cur­rently, the most pop­u­lar game is World of War­craft, which has be­tween 10m and 11m sub­scribers pay­ing to play on a monthly ba­sis.

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