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MMOGs differ from traditional computer games in a number of important ways. First, Internet connectivity is a prerequisite for all MMOGs, as the games can be played only after logging in to the server that hosts the game world popular MMOGs require dozens of such servers to accommodate their larger player bases.
Second, the social networking aspect of interacting with thousands of players worldwide frequently overshadows the game content itself.
A study found that almost one-third of female players and nearly 10 percent of male players had dated someone they met in a game.
Third, most MMOGs operate on a subscription basis, charging a monthly fee in addition to the initial purchase price of the game software.
Though World of Warcraft and other MMOGs utilize the advanced graphics and high-end processing power typical of the current generation of personal computers PCs , online gaming had its roots in some of the earliest computing technologies.
The structure of ARPANET allowed users to connect their computers or terminals to a central mainframe computer and interact in what was close to real time.
Soon other programmers expanded on the original MUD design, adding graphic flourishes, chat functions, and player groups or guilds.
These basic features, as well as the fantasy setting, carried over into the next generation of online games, which were the first true MMOGs.
Growth for these early games was relatively slow but steady, with the exception of Lineage , the explosive popularity of which was mainly due to the early and widespread availability of high-speed Internet connections in South Korea.
This popularity did not come without a price, however. By the time World of Warcraft debuted in November , the global gaming market was ready for a change.
This widespread success brought its own challenges for Blizzard, however, when the company temporarily suspended the account of a transsexual player over freedom of speech issues.
Are they like private clubs, where the management can restrict both membership and speech? Or do they fall under the scope of a public accommodation, where discrimination is expressly prohibited by U.
Another issue that game publishers have had to face is the rise of secondary economies outside their game worlds. Ultima Online designers were the first to observe this phenomenon at work when a castle in their game world sold for several thousand dollars on the online auction site eBay.
Players spend hours earning in-game wealth, hunting for rare weapons, and gaining power and prestige for their characters so that the fruits of their virtual labours can be exchanged for real cash.
The buyer and seller agree on a purchase price, the funds can be transferred electronically, and the two can then meet in the game world to complete the transaction.
Most MMOG companies sought to control this behaviour by banning the accounts of suspected gold farmers e. Sony co-opted the secondary market when it launched Station Exchange, a service designed to facilitate the buying and selling of virtual goods in its EverQuest games.
Linden Lab was the first company, however, to design a game around a virtual economy. That game was Second Life. In many ways similar to The Sims , the top-selling PC game of all time, Second Life was less a game and more a virtual world.
Though The Sims Online was a relative failure when it was introduced in late , Second Life became a runaway success soon after its launch in The difference was in the economic models adopted by the two games.
Whereas The Sims Online was criticized for its lack of any clear goals for players, Second Life offered players the opportunity to use the game world and their own talents to make as much money as they possibly could.
For a monthly subscription fee, players received an allowance of Lindens the in-game currency that could be officially exchanged with U.
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