Convergence of Online Gaming and E-Commerce

Convergence of Online Gaming and E-Commerce

Tracy Harwood (De Montfort University, UK)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-61692-808-7.ch004
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This chapter firstly explores the characteristics and features of online games and their potential for e-commercial exploitation via the communities of interest that have evolved within and around the gaming environments. The chapter then considers the most common models of e-commercialization applied in online games, virtual and mirror worlds by developers, outlining the types of relationships that exist between organizations and consumers, and the issues of co-creation and co-production that exist within each of the relational contexts identified. Finally, the chapter will review the emergence and convergence of online gaming economies and the issues presented at the boundary between real and fictional worlds, such as managing currencies, social identities and relational networks.
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The chapter explores the nature of online games, their evolution to date and how they have intertwined with the evolution of commercial interests in the internet for online business (e-business). Beginning with a review of the emergence and transformation of games and commercial contexts, the first two sections of the chapter subsequently review relevant industry reports, research and theoretical underpinnings to the contemporary online gaming, virtual and mirror world context for e-commercial activities. This is then drawn together in the final section, which discusses the emergence and convergence of online economies and the issues arising from their increasing integration with the real world.

Objectives of the chapter are to:

  • Review the emergence of massively multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPGs) and virtual worlds;

  • Examine the nature of contemporary online games, their characteristics, differences and similarities;

  • Discuss the roles of identity and social identity within gaming contexts;

  • Identify the influence of technology developments for online gaming participation;

  • Review the role and behavior of online gaming communities and tribes;

  • Identify the range of commercial models applied to online gaming contexts;

  • Discuss the forms, nature and evolution of relationships between players and game developers;

  • Evaluate the role of co-creation and co-production within virtual world experience environments;

  • Examine the emergence of online gaming economies;

  • Discuss the issues arising from convergence of online gaming economies with real world activities; and

  • Highlight gaps in research and application of relevant theories.


Characteristics And Features Of Online Games

Online gaming has had a varied path to its current metamorphosis into an influential sector that is now being used for much more than purely entertainment. The games sector’s rise has, however, been tied to the development of commercial networks and the internet. Table 1 identifies the origins of online gaming which can be traced back to the 1960s (for a detailed history of the emergence of online role playing games in particular see also Barton, 2008).

Table 1.
Early timeline of selected online games
1960sSpacewar2 player, by early 1970s up to 1000 players simultaneously on PLATO service (time sharing system)
1970-77Star Trek, Avatar (became Wizardry), AirfightMultiplayer on PLATO service and first PC game
1979-83Multi-User Dungeon (MUD)University hosted by mainframe (DEC-10) which, through hacking and illegal copying of code, was distributed globally and eventually found its way to the internet
1982Islands of Kesmai (became Legends of Kesmai in 1984)ASCII text role-playing game for CompuServe; Legends still available
1982-98MegaWars1 (another Kesmai game)Longest running paid-for online game on CompuServe
1985QuantumLink (became America Online) graphics based online service for Commodore 64/128 users, first serious competition to CompuServe
1986Stellar Warrior (renamed from MegaWars 1)Released through GEnie online service (developed in 1985) – the first multiplayer online game
1987Air Warrior (Kesmai)
Rabbit Jack’s Casino
First massively multiplayer game released on GEnie
Released on QuantumLink (first online casino)
1988-1996Advanced Dungeons & Dragons: NeverWinter NightsQuantum Computer Services launches AppleLink for Apple II but it was not until 1996 that Apple signed Gemstone III and Dragon’s Gate
Quantum Computer Services buy license and run as a paid for game until 1996
1989Online gaming industry takes off

Source: based on Mulligan (1999)

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