Aggro Me: Choice
If you asked me a few weeks ago whether adding more races, classes or other options to an MMO was desirable, I would have quickly said yes. That's not surprising. I'm sure most people would agree.
But I recently came across some research entitled "When Choice is Demotivating: Can One Desire Too Much of a Good Thing" by Sheena S. Iyengar of Columbia and Mark R. Lepper of Stanford. You can read it yourself but I'll try to summarize quickly:
Researchers set up a table at a supermarket offering a free sample of jam. They alternated before a choice of 24 jams and 6 jams. While more people stopped to sample when there were 24 jams, significantly less actually purchased jam (3%) then when there were 6 jams (30%).
Students were given an opportunity to complete an assignment for extra-credit. Some students were given a list of 30 assignments to choose from. Others were given a list of 6. Of those given the shorter list, 74% chose to complete the assignment, as opposed to only 60% of those given the longer list. What's more, students given the smaller choice of assignments received higher grades than those given the larger choice of assignments.
Participants were given a selection of chocolates which were labeled as to their contents (i.e. Strawberry Cordial). One group was given a choice of 6, another group was given a choice of 30 and a final group was given no choice at all. After the study they were given a choice of being paid for their time in either money or an equivalent amount of chocolates.
Participants in the high selection group did report enjoying the act of choosing a chocolate more than those in the low selection group. However, when it came time to choose money or sweet, delicious chocolate as payment:
Of those given a choice of 30, the chocolates were chosen by 12%.
Of those given no choice, the chocolates were chosen by 10%.
Of those given a choice of 6, the chocolates were chosen by 48%.
Remember, I was simplifying these three studies tremendously (though I think I made the general point) so if you want to critique the methodology used, you better read the whole thing. But I thought it raised some interesting questions.Are gamers similarly overwhelmed by too many choices? Would they have more fun and subscribe longer if their choices were actually limited in some fashion?
It would be really hard to tell. If you had trials for two games, one with 6 classes and one with 30 classes, the above study would tell me that more people would actually purchase the game with 6 classes. But in real life, there would be so many thousands of differences between two games that it would be impossible to isolate that particular variable as the determining factor.
I wonder if "alt-itis" plays into this choice phenomenon. Do people who have tons of alts tend to subscribe to an MMO for a longer or shorter period than people who play one character only? I don't know, but I've always been curious. If you have data, drop me a line. I'm honestly pretty dubious of my own point in this post but I'm throwing it out there anyway in the hopes that someone will argue against it.