Game Development Reference
are used to reward players and cash-based “hard currencies” are purchased in
order to give the player particular kinds of in-game advantages.
It is important to note that not all games with multiple types of rewards is
dual currency in the way we mean here. World of Warcraft offers gold (and
its variants), reputation, and a few other tradable currencies that matter only
within the game, but because the game is purely subscription-based and none
of these in-game currencies can be “purchased” with real-world cash, it is not
considered a dual currency game. League of Legends offers Riot Points and
Influence Points, one of which is earned, another of which must be purchased;
this makes League of Legends a standard dual currency model. XP and gold
feature prominently in their mid-session economy, but because these cannot be
exchanged for real-world cash, they are not considered part of the dual cur-
rency system. Empires and Allies sells items based on Coins (soft) and Empire
Points (hard, which convert to energy and a few other necessities). Older Zynga
games like Vampire Wars trade in Blood (soft) and Favor Points (hard), and so
on. To be considered truly a dual currency game, the game needs to distinguish
between soft and hard currency.
It is common for freemium games within the in-game fiction to use one
currency, usually a soft currency, which can be earned inside the game. Most
then have a meta-layer on top that allows users to purchase a second type of
currency, usually a “hard” currency, that is based on real money. It's rare to
allow users to earn much of the hard currency by performing in-game tasks.
(Designers don't typically want to deincentivize sales, as it undercuts the mon-
etization model.) Instead, an item the user might want can typically be pur-
chased for either a particular amount of an in-game currency or a different
amount of the hard currency. Commonly, the “best” (the most powerful, the
rarest, etc.) items can be purchased only using the cash-based hard currency.
Uses for Soft and Hard Currencies
Here are some of the common uses of soft currencies in games:
l Soft currencies should commonly be used as “engagement currency,” or cur-
rency that forms the core of the reward loop for the game. We recommend
setting the value for almost everything you sell in the hundreds or thousands
of units of the in-game currency, then lavishly distribute rewards in ones and
tens, whenever the player does something you want to encourage.
l Create alternative items that can serve as stand-ins for small denominations;
for example, give out rubies worth 50 units of in-game currency or golden
trophies that equate to 60 units, and so on. By giving away trinket valuables,
you can vary the soft currency rewards and keep players more engaged.
Players now have the opportunity to collect “cash,” or the basic currency, or
see who can win the most rubies, or collect the most gold trophies, or some