3/30/2014

The Inflation of Soft Currency

Multiple currencies have been the norm for some time now, and having both soft and hard currencies is to address two essential but competing needs. Player satisfaction and enabling a reasonable monetization. The Soft currency often times tie the idea of currency to the theme of the game, being it gold, wood, stone, or food, and throughout the game provides a feeling of progression and increased status.










subway surfers launched with only one currency 

With the popularization of strategy/builder games around mid 2012 centered around a timegate, soft and hard currencies were now a given in almost all top grossing games. Allowing people to avoid the timegate at the cost of hard currency was a very effective way to monetize and developers started to pick up on that, and naturally tried to squeeze the lemon. Since players were so positive to the idea of spending money on skipping the waiting time, games tried to explore other areas where players would be interested to spend money in return of a continued gameplay or getting that slight advantage.




A very common example of this is the ability to purchase soft currency with hard currency. Most times the game allows the player to refill the soft currency storage by 10% - 50% - 100% for an amount of hard currency equal to the actually amount of e.g. gold purchased. With this tendency games allowed not only skipping the waiting time but also avoid the grind for the soft currency, or the despair when only needing a small amount for the next upgrade.

Games centered around a timegate now enabled opportunities to spend hard currency and made for a constant monetization flow and turned every upgrade into a two-step purchased. A player spends hard currency to afford an upgrade providing the player with a very strong sense of progression and increased status through merely an 'in-game' purchase, step one. Afterwards the player need to wait X amount of time for the upgrade to be done, and with an investment already made, spending that extra hard currency to finish the upgrade right away isn't hat far away. Looking through the critics of F2P being solely P2W, this argument is often one of those that pop up - purchasing soft currency for hard currency. Here are some of the top grossing games that allow players to purchase soft currency for hard currency. 

Samurai Siege, Monsters Legacy, Monster Legends, Dragons of Atlantis, Royal Revolt 2, Dungeon Keeper, Clash of Clans, Hay Day, Crime City, Modern War, Dragon City, Castle Story, Simpsons: Tapped Out, Nimble Quest, Mega Run, Minion Rush, The Hobbit: Kingdom of Middle-earth, Knights & Dragons, Kingdoms of Camelot,  
who am I kidding, every top grossing game with a soft and hard currency does this. 

Often times the game provides the player with a significant amount of hard currency to begin with, and that it is up to the player where these are spend, being it to skip time, enabling multiple actions or spending it on soft currency. More and more games pushes the 'time of conversion' to ensure that the player is indeed engaged with the game before shutting of the free flow of hard currency through quests and reward for reaching milestones in the game. The problem that occurs when the 'time of conversion' is pushed to a later stage in the game; 

the inflation of the Soft Currency. 

Players are provided with more and more complimentary hard currency to reassure the player that this specific games is generous and does not have its hands in your pocket. But what they are really doing is letting the players sink even further in, so that they'll see how entertaining this game is and so they'll be much more likely the punch in that apple-id password when the time of conversion kicks in. 

The increased amount of free hard currency that can be spend refilling the soft currency storage. Furthermore, newer strategy and builders focus less and less on the benefits of upgrading the [game's gold mine equivalent] making sure that players do not log in to a fortune after a longer break. There are loads of examples were a full gold supply of gold, collected over several hours is only around 50% of what the player can collect through raids and quests that take no more than two minutes.
Instead, the player's main source of soft currencies are provided through these raid, event, quest and rewards making sure the timegate is working as intended and the ecosystem in the game is in balance, no matter how long a player is disconnected. 

This could ultimately result in a nullification of the soft currency, leaving it only relevant to tie the currencies to the theme of the game. But I've not naive, this won't happen, but it would be interesting to see if we at some point see a merger of the soft and hard currencies we know today. The classic soft currency is slowly be reiterated or even phased out, and the hard currency is interestingly beginning to look more and more like a soft currency.

Games have more and more of what seems to be random triggered events where the player is awarded hard currency, like a 'thanks for playing' reward. A chest here, a toolbox there, and a daily happy hour and spin of the wheel of fortune are subtle event meant to raise the retention of the players, but if this get more and more systematic, something the player should count on happening, and the reward is hard currency, doesn't that resemble the automated grind for soft currency that we see today.

I believe that this will balance out on its own and games will return to the norm we know today. If the theme-based soft currency disappears, it won't take long before people realize that the diamonds and the rubies looks a lot like real money and then this magic circle that is the game starts to look a lot like a casino - with no check out. 

What do you think will happen?








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