Game Development Reference
In-Depth Information
9.2 Selling Premium Goods
If a game is going to monetize via the sale of virtual goods, it's ideal for the
game design to account for this model from the moment of the game's incep-
tion. To be well executed, the game's designers need to plan in advance what
types of items will be sold and understand very clearly the ways in which
these items will affect the game balance. Virtual items need to augment the
gameplay, not distract from it. The best types of virtual goods are those that
fit nicely into the game world and act as a core component of each and every
move. In a city-building game, each different building the user interacts with
could be considered a virtual good. In an online driving game, the subcom-
ponents of the user's car can be the basic building blocks of the virtual goods
system. For a first person shooter, each gun or bullet could be a purchasable
item, and so on. What all of these examples share is that the goods for sale are
a critical component of almost every user's experience within the game system
and they were designed from the onset of the game to play a major role in every
second of the user's experience.
Integrating the sale of virtual goods into an existing game design is dif-
ficult to do without inadvertently “breaking” the game. At best, the system
is likely to feel like a tacked-on afterthought designed to extract money from
customers without improving the gameplay. The best way to avoid this type
of design issue is to carefully identify which parts of your game design could
reasonably rely upon the sale of virtual goods and which parts need to remain
untangled from the influence of microtransactions. Spend time analyzing
other games in the market and take advice from there; would Monopoly be as
much fun if you could just throw a dollar on the board every time you wanted
to buy a hotel? Determine what you're going to sell for real money, and care-
fully integrate that plan into your overall game design.
For game designers, there is a core division between the two key types of
virtual goods, and this distinction needs to be understood from the onset of the
design process. In-game items (or even non-item boosts, accelerators, or fea-
tures) need to be considered in terms of the degree to which they alter game-
play for the user. Purchases that change something meaningful about the game
are said to confer “functional advantages.” Purchases that are purely aesthetic
are often no less important to users, but they serve a different function in the
game's design and moment-to-moment play. These purchases are generally
considered “vanity items.”
9.3 Functional Advantages
There are many types of goods that can grant a functional advantage in a game.
In a shooter, this could be something as obvious as a more damaging gun or a
gun that fires faster than those available in the game for free. In a city-building
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