While working at Riot Games as Head of Player Acquisition for the European Union, I learned about player onboarding and long-term retention. Both are essential to successful gamer acquisition. I’ve looked at user retention mechanisms in games, and what I’ve learned is that most cryptocurrency games today lack mechanisms that keep players engaged, even in the short term.
Why don’t top rated games introduce real world rewards into their games? Titles that do not enjoy rewards. Opportunities to introduce financial rewards have always been considered. why didn’t anyone do that?
The answer lies in one of the basic behavioral patterns that accompany motivation: over-justification. This well-documented mechanism reduces people’s interest in activities.
It is the presence of extrinsic rewards such as cash and prizes. Money kills intrinsic motivation. This is what traditional developers say is essential for long-term player retention.
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Games should avoid injecting financial rewards into experiences that are inherently designed to reward. The fun of beating tough bosses in Dark Souls-style games stems from the fact that they require a great deal of skill.
If you reward that experience with $0.50, you’re discarding it. Entering FIFA video game tournaments with friends just to make $0.15 robs you of the fun. Offering zero dollars removes financial considerations and focuses entirely on the gaming experience.
Every game has a set of mechanics designed specifically for user retention, monetization and reactivation. These should go deeper than expecting players to come back for tokens only.
Economics without psychology
An economist ignorant of human behavior and games might first consider how to motivate users to play more. The longer a user plays, the more value a player can derive from a transaction. As a result, power users are more likely to pay for in-game items and transactions.
Therefore, increasing user retention is essential. This will increase monetization and predictable revenue per user. Let’s say a user is earning an average of $0.60 per hour of gameplay, and you know from data and behavioral patterns that the user is at risk of quitting playing altogether. The logic is that you can start paying $0.30 to incentivize them to continue.
This is where over-justification comes into play.
From a purely economic point of view, paying $0.30 and making $0.60 is a 100% return on investment. This makes perfect sense on the surface. But taking such an approach is exactly where play-to-eating games go wrong.
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Extensive research on child behavioral psychology points to the principle of over-justification. We do many things because they have intrinsic value to us. We are only willing to engage in these activities and enjoy them the most when there is an intrinsic reward.
If your child enjoys playing the piano, rewarding them with $1 each time they play the piano will reduce their motivation over time. The same goes for hard and challenging hobbies that keep our bodies and minds functioning at their highest level. A state of flow is achieved when we are reaching our full potential. If you lose focus of that laser, it can fail.
A good matchmaking system for multiplayer games puts you against opponents you can beat exactly 50% of the time.
Our brains treat activities that provide financial rewards differently than activities that do not. Introducing a financial reward into the flow state is like throwing a wrench into a spinning wheel. Our brains are focused on financial results, not the pleasure of trying.
state of flow
Flow states are a great place for users to find themselves. Great games like League of Legends and Overwatch are great at creating matchmaking systems that keep their win rates fairly even. Currents where they are pushing themselves to their absolute maximum limits. This generates the highest intrinsic rewards in recognizing a player’s abilities and provides the conditions for the player to improve and ultimately succeed.
Cryptocurrency games, on the other hand, are designed around tokennomics and play-to-earn mechanics. The game loop and the pleasure you get from playing games are second only to crypto rewards.
No one invests hundreds of hours in an activity they don’t enjoy unless they pay a lot of money. And we can pay a lot of money only when a critical mass of users work to create significant value. This quickly turns into a death spiral for early crypto games, as the game is unable to generate the amount of value needed to do so.
Developers should create games that people want to play and make this a primary goal. Even great games with great retention numbers can have their retention destroyed by play-to-earn mechanics.
Anderson McCutcheon Founder and CEO of Chains.com, a multi-chain platform with over 500,000 registered users. He is the former Head of Player of Acquisition EU at Riot Games, makers of League of Legends and Valorant, with an average of over 100 million players playing their games each month. A former professional poker player and Unit 8200 veteran, he held leadership positions at 888 Holdings and PokerStars. He studied computer science at his Technion at the Israel Institute of Technology.
This article is for general information purposes and is not intended, and should not be construed as legal or investment advice. The views, thoughts and opinions expressed herein are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect or represent the views or opinions of Cointelegraph.