Economic Models

Looking outside MMO-land, here is a good example of how an economic model can undermine a game. Excerpt from the GameSpy review of Gotham City Impostors:

The real catch though is how long it takes to earn these unlocks. Want to jump in and create your own Boy Wonder or Jokerette? You need to level to unlock any customizations, then unlock the slots, then get keys to unlock individual items, then level more to get their mods and level more to create extra loadouts… endlessly. Unlocks aren’t inherently a bad thing, but Impostors takes it too damn far — especially when it’s selling a $3 “XP booster” as DLC.

Clothing yourself is an even bigger nuisance…

The game advertises “1000 levels of player advancement overflowing with upgrades and unlocks” which is how you get the game’s other advertisement of “More customization than you can shake a shotgun at.” That becomes encouragement just to buy the unlocks rather than waiting for 1000 of them, plus more costume bits to buy with tokens, plus “premium” items.

7 thoughts on “Economic Models”

  1. My conclusion is as such:

    Assumption: If a game has an experience bar and/or unlocks, there must be an ideal speed and rhythm in which to unlock stuff for maximum enjoyment.

    If you sell me experience boost items, there are three options:

    1. I will earn too little to achieve maximum enjoyment without them and your designers know this. The mechanic exists purely to milk me for money. Therefore your game is sub-optimal, and I will probably play something better.

    2. I will earn just the right amount of exp without the item. Why does it exist, then? Your designers only want to pull one over the less perceptive players? While I might play such a game, I think this relationship to the developer does not bode well.

    3. Your designers literally don’t know how the mechanic is supposed to work. Which means the game is very unlikely to be any good.

    Conclusion: Selling XP boost tells me clearly that the game is either deliberately inferior, or the devs are lying to me, or the devs are bad.

    -> If you sell XP-boost items, your game is bad.

    Unlocks should be a mechanic used for pacing. Instead, unlocks are abused to charge extra for basic functionality.

    1. Alternatively, I can play without an XP boost while my wife plays with, and it should hopefully cancel some of the difference in spare time.

      There’s never just 3 options.

      1. I neither think nor hope the designers plan for me and your wife to share an account, and balance xp gain accordingly to that.

        1. very good observation on xp boost, kind of my thoughts when i heard they were part of gw2

      1. Haven’t seen RPS’ review, but it’s good enough to satisfy Total Biscuit (after they added an FoV slider and fixed the matchmaking, anyways), so it can’t be all that bad. Especially at half off on Steam this weekend.

        I’d get it, if it wasn’t for it being a Games for Windows Live game and my reflexes being around a decade past their Best Before date… :P

        1. Sounded to me like a magnificent concept of a game that you’d have to make SOE-level horrible decisions in producing in order to screw up… and they just about did.

          IIRC the matchmaking was one of the worst offenses, though so if they’ve fixed that it’s probably a very big improvement.

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