Game Development Reference
interact. Moreover, CityVille gives users a tab that allows them to see a more
detailed breakdown of their friends' levels, experience points, and total cash.
In CityVille , players regularly (every 30 clicks or so) get a popup encourag-
ing them to share news of their progress (and money) with their friends,
including those who have not ever played the game. By making it easy to
find and interact with friends, Zynga's CityVille makes it easier for users to
play together—which makes them more likely to invest continued time in the
game. And by making it easy for users to share news of their exploits in the
game with friends who aren't yet playing, they can help “infect” new users,
and spread the game itself.
Let the user decide how much is the right amount
With a retail game, the player has to shell out a set amount of money;
that initial price often amounts to several hours' wages for many people,
and this expenditure comes before they ever get to play the game. This is
a huge leap of faith for a consumer to make, and usually only the estab-
lished titles from well-recognized publishers can garner this kind of trust,
at least with any regularity. With some subscription-based MMOs, play-
ers have the same initial cash outlay for the “box” and must still agree
to a fixed per-month cost. But with most social games, users have the
power to decide just how much money they want to spend to improve
their experience and when they want to spend it. Obviously, a successful
strategy might thus be to design your gameplay and flow such that users
have numerous and varied opportunities to spend money and are easily
able to do so when they make that choice. Some suggestions include the
l Let them buy something at any time by always offering a vendor button;
have one on every screen.
l Give them options at a variety of price points to appeal to users with differ-
ent economic resources. Donald Trump might be happy to drop $1000 on
a powerful item in your game, but one of your high school players might
think that a $1 purchase was quite extravagant enough, thank you.
l Don't penalize users for buying things; in particular, don't penalize them
socially by attaching a stigma to bought items. Specifically, be very care-
ful offering items that can only be bought, as these will stand out and
may be the equivalent of wearing a scarlet “A” to some users, particularly
in the West, where the idea of “buying your way ahead” is still frowned
upon in some circles. There's a concept, particularly amongst more
traditional or hardcore gamers, that buying items that give the user an
advantage is “cheating.” So ensure that users aren't stigmatized socially
for having paid you.