In the first part of this series we looked at some examples of games that afford the spending of hard currency in their attempt to engage players. In this second part, I'll take a look at the other side, games that do not push it enough. If you haven't read the first part, I suggest you jump over to http://www.appcrimes.com/2014/04/forcing-hard-currency.html and have a go at that one.
Anyway, Trials Frontier by Ubisoft, editor's choice mid april 2014, is a great example of an initial lack of aggression when trying to afford the use of hard currency. But first things first though.
Trials Frontier is a mission-based Dirt-bike Stunt game with a odd though interesting cocktail of themes mixed together. The Death-Race/gunslinging/hillbilly-themed game is fairly late to introduce the two currencies is has, namely Coins and Gems. After a few tutorial levels and missions, coins are introduced as the currency of which of you'll need to upgrade your dirt-bike. Only after +30min of gameplay is the hard currency introduced - and while I could go on and on about how you shouldn't hide your currencies from the player, let's move on and have a look at why player actually don't need to purchase.
Some of the top grossing games out there focus on fairly short game loops, possibly enabling that time gate rather quick, e.g. 5 lives can quickly be used in Candy Crush Saga. (screw you level 181) But with a gameplay that is story-driven and mission based, Trials Frontier do not allow the player to experience the time gate, that would get people to spend to keep completing missions. Here is a few reasons why this happens in Trials Frontier.
The life economy is fuel in Trials Frontier. The player uses 5 points of fuel to 'pay' for every run, but until about level 6 (a couple of hours into the game) the player will automatically level up from the 5-6 missions given on each level with a progressively increasing reward both in XP and Currency. Leveling up means the player will receive a full gas tank, replenishing the player's 'lives'.
The missions given are easily completed, because of two major factors. Crashing the bike has very little consequence in relation to the missions. The player rarely, need to actually do something in the level to complete the underlying mission - and even in those cases the player is able to retry the level, if not completed, without spending more fuel.
The two currencies in the game sadly end up being nullifying as a result of the player not needing a faster bike. The game continuously tells you that you cannot beat your enemy, the Gary of Trials Frontier. Furthermore, the game offers not further reward for achieving '3 stars' (Gold Medal), so why should the player bother spending extra fuel, when story-wise, nothing is gained?
These are some of the reasons why Trials Frontier isn't grossing as well as one might would have expected, just looking at the gameplay, the visuals and the story. (source: appannie.com)
The game that seemingly did itself a disservice by being too generous and implementing such unaggressive monetization, flips the coins around level 7 and introduces a rather unflattering mechanic that might increase the revenue but surely ruins the gameplay. Allow me to explain.
The traditional time of conversion lies around *dinging* level 7 and about that time the rather misplaced wheel of fortune introduces its extra spin, like most of us know from Supercell's Hay Day and Zynga's Farmville 2. The funny thing is that a fair amount of the missions at this point require the player to hit a specific price on the wheel of fortune in order to complete the Quest. The player is now randomly completing mission, with hard currency as insurance. So we went from generous to pretty transparent Casino mechanics. Normally you see games enabling players to skip missions if they, for whatever reason, do not want to bother with that mission.
This feeling is further enhanced when the player realizes that the actually gameplay, riding the bike, and the level the player is led to, in order to complete a mission, has no point at all. In terms of progression, the gameplay, putting it rough, might as well be a match three at this point.
Essentially what Trials Frontier lacks is synergy. Synergy between the monetization and the game design. Unlike the prior examples Trials Frontier starts out by neglecting currencies as an element of their game, while after a point, goes full speed ahead and through a very transparent business model tries to 'force' the use of hard currency. This game has a lot of potential, bot stumbles in their attempt to implement an effective way to ensure revenue. You cannot make Progression P2W if there is a random factor in there. People need to know where their money is going. People aren't playing the roulette to see the ball spin, they play to win.