The one social networking game still clinging to my Facebook account is Restaurant City. EA bought Playfish, so I do not exactly promote the game, but I am still sufficiently amused to visit a few times a day to keep my imaginary staff running. Playfish has recently made some simple adjustments that I expect to produce increases in their cash shop revenue.
Another of their games, Pet Society, has long had mystery boxes (and eggs, etc.). They are bought with in-game currency, although they have added some cash-only boxes. Mystery boxes have random items from an appropriately themed pool, although the initial boxes were just “pay for something random!” These must have been sufficiently popular (slot machines tend to be) because they added cash shop mystery boxes to their other games. That is step zero the revenue enhancement.
In Pet Society, there is now a screen that shows how many different items are in each mystery box pool (not what they are) and which you have found. Hey, it is an achievement screen for collectors! Gotta catch ’em all! This is a brilliant way to encourage people to buy a few more to finish the set. Why was this not in at the start? This is step one.
Back in Restaurant City, the new holiday mystery boxes have set bonuses. Collect all the items each box can yield, and you get a bonus item with gameplay stats. Now we have an achievement that yields practical value! (Bonus scheming for making them time-limited. Buy now, before artificial scarcity sets in!) This is step two. So far, we are familiar with these as ways to encourage achievement-seeking, which can be as easy as putting an unchecked box on a list.
Step three, the masterstroke, is giving away mystery boxes. Giving away cash shop items is genius? Yes! Every player had a chance to “earn” one recently, and if you did you could give one away to the first friend to click on the link. Congratulations, you get the point towards the achievement free. Would you like to keep going? If you have many friends playing, you might have gotten two or three checked off. There are multiple sets available, so maybe you just need one more to finish it out. Would you like to spend those few dollars to see if you can finish the set and get the bonus item? Look how shiny your mystery item is, how much faster the magic stove would be in your restaurant, and you just need one lucky box…