As a hardcore gamer I play disgusting amounts of games. Particularly when they come out. I’ll play for 20-60 hours over the course of the week then I’m finished with it and possibly never touch it again. I’ve played my fill and am happy with it.
I am part of the problem for developers: How do we retain players better?
DLC is one such answer to this. It sometimes brings players back after they have moved on to something else. By doing this, developers hope to suck the players back into the game for a second wind, bring back some of the community and make a few extra bucks off them. This is why we hear so often about future DLC before the game is released. So we wont sell the game to Gamestop and have someone else buy it; thus they lose more money. But this can easily fracture the community and typically involves players spending more money before receiving the new content. Which will already cause fewer players to buy it.
Another is a time gate. Clash of Clans handles time gates like so: When a player wants to build or upgrade a structure it will take time. The more powerful the structure the longer it takes to build (Some even taking up to a couple weeks!). Now the player can pay real world cash to speed the process up (The impatience of humans has made Supercell stupid amounts of money). But if the player wishes to wait or has to wait to progress they leave the game and don’t binge it, thus they don’t get tired of the game as quickly and come back more often. This may piss off some players but when paired with notifications of when the structure is complete on the player’s phone it keeps the player coming back for more.
So what happens when you try to bring this concept over to the realm of Xbox One and PS4? Typically the very outspoken hardcore gaming communities are not fans of micro transactions or of having the option to spend more money on speeding things up. The way they see it is they have spent $60 on your product and expect to not be asked for more money. As outspoken as they are about this it’s funny that a similar system has been used to help retain high-level players of Destiny.
This brings me to the Vanguard and Crucible marks. Vanguard marks are a form of currency that are awarded to players for taking on PvE (Player vs. Environment) tasks. Crucible marks are a form of currency awarded to players for taking on PvP (Player vs. Player) tasks. They are the most reliable and only guaranteed way to get the gear the player wants. (Everything else is a random drop so the players wont get to choose what they get, with the exception of strange coins for Weeklies/Nightfalls and Xur. But even that follows a very similar system.) These marks can be used at their respected vendors to purchase very high-level gear. Here is where it gets interesting; players can only obtain 100 of each kind of marks each week. (This resets on Tuesday morning at 2am PST) To purchase high-level Armor it costs 75 marks for a chest piece, a leg set or an arm set. For a helmet it costs 120 marks. As you can see due to the 100 marks per week limit getting a full set isn’t going to happen this week.
A strange thing happens when a player reaches 100 marks. They stop playing. They put the controller down and do something else thus giving them some time away from the game to go do or play something else so they don’t get fatigued. Then when it resets on Tuesday they come back because they want to earn more marks and continue leveling up their guy. This time away from the game is a powerful thing because it helps keep the player from getting fatigued. There is no option to pay to speed the process up and there is no countdown timer. Because this isn’t as in your face as Clash of Clans players don’t think about it too much. And the developers completely avoid the issue of their game becoming pay to win.
So what is in the player’s face? How does a player know they have reached the 100 marks limit? A couple bars that fill up in the map menu show the current status of the player’s weekly-earned marks.
So it makes the player feel good because they finished this task for the week. Not to mention if you are playing on Xbox you get an achievement the first time you do this. (I would imagine there is a Trophy for this on PlayStation) And it’s a reliable solution to leveling your character up. There aren’t any feelings of being cheated when the player doesn’t get the loot drop they want. Because they are guaranteed X number of marks for task Y. And it stops the player from feeling fatigued from the game by subtly suggesting to them “Hey you aren’t going to get anymore of these until Tuesday. Why not come back then?”
When they come back or start a new mission they see this map and they see how many marks they have. They see when it resets. And there is something rewarding about having that bar filled up. The only issue with this is there aren’t any notifications, outside of the game, reminding the player that the marks have reset. Instead it is on players to be apart of a community thus causing them to think about Destiny and wanting to return. And if the player base wasn’t already so feverish for the game, without notifications it might not work. (Try playing Clash of Clans without notifications. Life gets in the way and it might be days before you return to the game if ever.)
Using a time gate in one form or another isn’t a bad thing necessarily. And how you use it and how you display it is important to how your player base will perceive it. But if Destiny and Clash of Clans are any proof it can be used to hook casual and hardcore gamers and extend the life of the game by forcing them away for a time. Distance makes the heart grow fonder.
Now if you’ll excuse me I need to run this strike so I can get my final 6 marks and buy that Legendary Helmet I’ve been eyeballing.