Game Development Reference
In-Depth Information
10.2 Single Currency Models
Imagine that you wanted to create a game around the real-world adventures of
a lemonade stand owner, like the venerable Lemonade Stand game from the
days of the Apple II. You could set the price of lemons, maybe even tie it to a
real-world daily lookup function that averaged the price of citrus in the user's
region. Likewise, you could tie the price of sugar and labor to rates in the area,
then let users set their per-cup price, and watch a (admittedly fairly dull) lem-
onade stand unfold. Although a social game in which everyone is busy selling
lemonade to their friends might start to read like a Philip K. Dick sketch before
long, one could certainly build such a game. Then, as your microtransaction
model, you could let users whose stands weren't doing too well give you U.S.
dollars, at a 1:1 ratio, for every dollar they wanted to gain in game. Such is
what a single currency system would look like integrated into one of gaming's
earliest consumer pricing simulators.
What are the problems with this model (aside from the Lemonade Stand
game being boring in comparison to some of the more complex game mechan-
ics now standard in the modern age)? For starters, asking people to perform
game actions using real-world dollars forces them regularly to think about the
relationship between the game and real life. If I need to buy a bag of lemons in
order to progress, and it costs me $3, I am immediately forced to think about
the other things I could be doing with that $3. I had to work for that $3, and
I may not want to spend it on virtual lemons. By way of comparison, if a bag
of lemons costs me 23 Sourbucks, I'm much less inclined to be yanked from
the fantasy by thoughts of rent, tuition, or whatever other real-world expenses
compete for my dollars. At least on a surface level, I'm not spending my dol-
lars; I'm spending Sourbucks.
Another problem with a single currency system is that it becomes very dif-
ficult to reward the user without giving away real-world currency, which may
involve state and federal legal issues, and in general isn't the best business
plan. Occasionally, you'll want to entice a user by offering a reward if they
return to the game or invite a friend to play, or similar, but that's very differ-
ent from taking real-world money out of the game and giving it back to the
user. Smart designers find ways to keep their players' cash once they've got
it, and instead offer other types of incentives. In a game like Lemonade Stand ,
rewards could potentially be as simple as in-game objects (such as lemons) as
enticements. This might be an easy, efficient, and effective choice, but once you
make this choice, you have effectively created a dual currency model.
10.3 Dual Currency Models
Dual currency systems are common in games that ask players to spend real
money to purchase in-game items or features. Most social games on Facebook
have a dual currency model in which in-game soft “engagement currencies”
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