Content Types

Whereas early MMO content made simple distinctions between PvE, PvP, and raid content, current MMOs make much finer distinctions. For example, within PvP, there are PvP duels, small-scale PvP (e.g., battlegrounds in WoW), large-scale PvP (e.g., RvR in Dark Age of Camelot), and open PvP (e.g., in Eve Online or PvP servers). Thus, it's no longer enough to ask players the simple question of whether they enjoy PvP because a player may love to do battlegrounds in WoW but would not want to be on a PvP server. To get at these finer distinctions in content type, I asked players to rate the appeal of these categories of content on a scale from 1 5, where 1 was "Not Appealing At All" and 5 was "Extremely Appealing".

Below is how the data came out by gender. Overall, it is what is typically referred to as "casual content" that is most highly rated (i.e., solo content and small raids). Note that in the survey, "small raids" was defined as regular 5-man dungeon instances. Another observation is that where there were some gender differences, the general order is roughly the same for both genders. Rated the lowest were high-stress PvP content--duels and open PvP. Content types that require a high level of management and coordination (i.e., large raids and large-scale PvP) received average ratings.

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Looking at the data by age reveals other interesting findings. Below is a chart that plots the correlations between each the content type ratings and age. Note that it is the correlation coefficient that is plotted. Thus, a "0.20" means that age correlates with the appeal of the content type positively. The graph below shows that older players are more likely to prefer solo content, while younger players are more likely to prefer high-stakes PvP and large-scale raids and PvP. We've seen this "hard-core" aspect of younger players in other places before.

Of course, despite this underlying granularity of content types, most MMOs still ask players to choose from one of about four server types: normal PvE, PvP, RP PvE, and RP PvP. Here's a chart that shows server choice by gender from the survey.

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We can see several patterns in this chart. First off, normal PvE servers are the most popular server type (despite the fact that these are "role-playing" games). Secondly, PvP servers (whether normal or RP) are twice as popular among men than women.

And here is a stacked chart that shows server choice by age group. This chart shows again the age difference in PvP appeal we've seen above. The two RP server choices (the lower two colors) actually remain mostly flat across the age range and it is the PvE vs. PvP data that shifts. Appeal of PvP servers peaks in the 18-22 age group and mostly falls after that point.

What this set of data reminds us of is that server differences aren't only a function of server rules, but that they are also a function of demographic differences. The difference between a normal PvP and a PvE server isn't just because of the rules, but also partly because PvP servers attract significantly more men relative to women and it also draws from a younger age group.