Editor’s Introduction 17(4)

Vladimir Zwass
International Journal of Electronic Commerce,
Volume 17, Number 4, Summer 2013, pp. 5-6.

Massively multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPGs) loom very large in the lifestyles of their participants and are an important genre of virtual worlds where e-commerce is conducted while the games are being played. In these games, which persist across time, the players are represented by their chosen avatars, which interact with other users and, crucially, cooperate with others in order to realize complex goals and engage in imaginative quests. Virtual communities of players, known as guilds, emerge to achieve goals—and to enjoy thus formed virtual social circles. A few MMORPGs, notably World of Warcraft, succeed wildly, but many fail as their users do not care to sustain them. Indeed, who remembers the innovative Game Neverending, which gave birth to Flickr? The key question to be asked then is, what are the games’ success factors that evoke commitment of players and lead to their loyal participation and thus to the success of the game’s platform publisher?

The question is addressed through theory-based empirics by the authors of the opening paper of the issue, Junghoon Moon, Md. Dulal Hossain, G. Lawrence Sanders, Edward J. Garrity, and Sooran Jo. The authors hypothesize that the sources of loyalty lie in enhancing the players’ sense of ownership and control of their avatar (as the psychological ownership theory would indicate) and their ability to develop a social identity in the interaction with other players (as the social identity theory would suggest). The validation of the model based on these premises leads to specific and actionable recommendations for the game offerors. It is also a contribution to a broader understanding of the antecedents of loyalty in online contexts.

The above research of the motivation to persist in playing an online game is followed by an empirical work that investigates the motivation to use location-based services offered by merchants in mobile commerce. To be attractive, personalized mobile services need to rely on a considerable degree of intimacy between the user and the merchant in terms of the disclosure of both preferences and current location. This attraction comes at the considerable price of loss in privacy. The issues of trust and distrust (which may coexist) are weighty factors. Here, Shuk Ying Ho and Patrick Y.K. Chau describe a field study of how two features of location personalization that are components of mobile service quality affect the trust and distrust of the customers. Thus, the researchers dichotomize the participants’ perceptions of location personalization into that of its accuracy and of its precision. They then determine how these perceptions affect the users’ views about the integrity of the service provider—and their intention to use the service. Recommendations to the providers of mobile services follow from the study.

Three subsequent papers of the issue present research addressing various aspects of value co-creation by consumers offering their articulations on the Web as electronic word of mouth (eWOM). EWOM can bear unwelcome news. How should the company respond? We have all witnessed corporate responses that brought credit to the brand as well as those that resulted in lasting damage. Here, Lan Xia presents an inclusive model of the consequences of various responses to a criticism in social media. The author shows how offensive marketing strategies can be leavened by intertwining them with defensive ones. Showing vulnerability can be appealing to consumers—but then this depends on the nature of the brand: Congruence is needed. The results are nuanced, and the paper will repay a reading by the researchers of marketing to informed consumers and by marketers in the social media.

Online product reviews are a weighty component of eWOM and a well-researched area of co-creation. What do the consumers, the addressees of the reviews, think of their helpfulness? Mengxiang Li, Liqiang Huang, Chuan-Hoo Tan, and Kwok-Kee Wei study empirically the effects of both the source and the features of the reviews. The authors find that the reviews written by other consumers are considered more helpful than those provided by experts; specificity of the reviews is valued as well. Interestingly, the authors find that the interaction effects of the source and the nature of the content can engender the greatest perceived helpfulness of reviews. The study can lead to the surfacing of a gold standard in consumer reviews.

The concluding paper of the issue continues the theme of the eWOM research. Here, the context is that of a discussion forum. Hung-pin Shih, Kee‑hung Lai, and T.C.E. Cheng investigate the factors that lead the participants to articulate their opinions on the forum. The authors study a set of informational factors as well as two relational factors as antecedents to contribution. The empirics demonstrate once again the overriding importance of relational factors in online pursuits. The work adds significantly to our understanding of the motivators in co-creation.