Gaming has been enjoying a rapidly increasing acceptance for years. As the popularity of the new form of entertainment grew, so did the market. By surpassing the music and movie industries by a considerable margin, the gaming sector is considered one of, if not the most profitable entertainment industry, projected to generate near $260 billion in revenue by 2025.
In part one of this article, we had a look at what drove the massive growth in gaming and the new possibilities NFT technologies create for the industry. In Part two, we’ll explore what defines a well-designed and sustainable game economy.
The Importance of Game Economy Design
No matter the platform, a successful game needs to have attractive traits and defining characteristics to capture the attention of potential players. There is no set formula when it comes to game design. Some will captivate the player with an exciting story, and others will heavily emphasise the visual charm or auditory style. However, the most important of all is gameplay. Gameplay defines the way your players are able to interact with the game. It covers the general rules defining what the player can do in the game, the goals and milestones for players to reach, in addition to the overall experience that is being curated by designers.
Game economy design is a subset of these gameplay elements, and there are two primary purposes for focusing on it. Its primary function is to mediate players’ time and effort in the game with tangible rewards and progress.
Game economies are like real economies where labour and material are inputs, and goods & services are outputs. Players put in the time and derive things like experience, currency, and loot, which drive player satisfaction.
Traditional Game Economy Design
- Microeconomy: Game Balance
Microeconomic design refers to the feature-level progression of players through the game’s core loops. It can refer to how players obtain the various resources necessary to advance through the specific challenges and the pinch points laid out by the game’s design. For traditional games, this can cover things like monetisation and the utility of the various forms of soft and hard currency within the game.
2. Macroeconomics: Taps and Sinks
Taps and sinks define the allocation of in-game resources and how the player can spend them. Taps are the activities and actions the player can do to receive a reward, like dungeons, combat, or puzzles. Sinks are the various ways those resources or currency can be used or spent.
A staple in modern game design — LiveOps ensures high player retention rates. By continuously updating and adding new content to the game, it is possible to extend its shelf life vastly. Developers can promote player acquisition and retention by introducing new events, exclusive content, and interesting features.
4. Analytics and Metrics
Staying updated with the in-game state is essential. Anti-bot systems and preventative measures such as swift bug fixes must be employed to prevent exploits. Interacting with the community can prove helpful in determining potential future events and changes for the game. Lastly, monitoring the inflation rate and using appropriate techniques to sustain appropriate levels is vital for sustainability and stability.
Building a Sustainable Virtual Economy.
Unlike traditional games, blockchain games require a more sophisticated in-game economic system. In a game where players are free to trade with other players then, the economy design is also concerned with the level of utilisation and circulating supply of the game’s assets amongst the game’s players. In addition to this, economy designers also need to be concerned with things like stability (volatility imposes direct and indirect costs to players), inequality (players don’t like the rich getting richer), and growth (players want to see opportunities expanding). Due to the digital assets in blockchain games having permanence, these things gain importance in the game’s design, but they also add constraints.
1. Deflationary Sinks
To prevent economic stagnation and promote active trading, game studios may use deflationary sinks. These systems remove the utility from neglected or unused NFTs. In other words, players may receive minor but fair penalties for hoarding their tokens. By promoting trading, newer players will receive a fair chance of progressing in the game while the network maintains its worth and stability.
2. Tournament Systems
The idea behind tournament systems is to host competitions that require some sort of investment or contribution to the prize pool. Tournaments can hold any form. The important part is to give players of all skill levels and advancements an equal chance to win the match. As long as the competition is fair and exciting, the player will be motivated to compete and engage in these social events. Additionally, promoting social gameplay will raise further interest in the game and potentially attract new players.
3. Incentivise Reinvesting
Keeping player investment high is key. Through exciting gameplay and captivating new content, keeping player engagement high at all times. Equip the game with fun mechanics and game loops and give the player a sense of progression. Through questlines and content, keeping the player base invested in the gameplay to promote their further engagement in the economy.
4. Daily limits
Another way to slow down inflation in virtual economies is to set daily limits on player actions or set up a system with diminishing returns. This is a limit consumption and allows the game’s developers to design new features and mechanics for continued engagement. Mechanics include limiting the benefits of repeated daily activities or implementing cooldowns to regulate advancement rates.
5. Social Engagement
It is important to acknowledge that one of the main contributing factors to a game’s longevity is the community. There are many examples of older games that have survived for decades as they provided ways for players to engage with their peers. Give players the ability to demonstrate their mastery and experience in the game and highlight their desirable social status through different means, like exclusive cosmetics, limited-time events, and so on.
6. Vertical and Horizontal Progression
Limiting gameplay progression in one way could prove to be a devastating mistake for non-story-driven games. Divided between vertical, aka power-based progression, and horizontal, non-power-based progression, players should have the ability to see and feel their improvement in areas different from the main gameplay, like crafting, trading, farming, and so on. Offering various gameplay systems and achievements to incentivise progression in those areas by creating intertwined missions and activities. Encourage spending and reinvestment and give your players a new way to enjoy your game.
Offer different trading opportunities and allow players to specialise within the economy and market. Give players an incentive to trade their assets actively. By promoting a vigorous player-based market, you can give new players an engaging experience and boost their interest considerably.
Sustainable NFT game economies are a work-in-progress concept. Implementing some or all of these features does not guarantee perfect economic stability. Likely, future games will find innovative ways for further engagement that rely on the open features of blockchain game design. Examples could include: User-generated content, external partnerships, and the integration of ancillary media (e.g. streamers, multimedia) these aspects can extend the remits of game economy design, adding more complexity but also more vibrance to the game’s ecosystem. Finally, although game designers control many aspects, some things lay beyond their control — by opening real-world value to the game’s assets, there is a link between external factors (e.g. real-world macroeconomic shocks) with in-game systems. Nevertheless, in future articles, we will be exploring how we use the concepts explored in this article in the exciting new game, Guild of Guardians.