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Game Design Inspirations: Fire Emblem Heroes’ Sacred Coin and the Value of Player Trust

by Paul Gadi on 09/11/17 02:48:00 pm

The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.

 

Hello and welcome to Game Design Inspirations! GDI is a weekly bite-sized nugget of brilliant game design, taken from the games that I play “for research purposes”.

Fire Emblem games have traditionally been tactical role playing games on Nintendo consoles. Fire Emblem Heroes is an anomaly for Intelligent Systems, as it’s the first Fire Emblem game that they’ve released for mobile.

It’s usually difficult to transition a game franchise from being a premium console experience to mobile free to play. Intelligent Systems though have not only succeeded in doing so, but have also created one of the best games in the Fire Emblem series along the way.

Voting Gauntlet, Tempest Trials, Hero Merit, Ally Support and Arena Assault — all new mechanics that were introduced in the game through subsequent patches

Live operations for the game has also been on point. The game launched smoothly on release date, without any of the server issues that usually plague the release of popular titles.

Like clockwork, new characters are added every two weeks, and new mechanics and UX improvements are added to the game once a month. These improvements are communicated early and frequently to players through an in-game messaging system, and also through their social media channels.

With a history of games spanning 27 years and 12 titles, there’s no shortage of characters that can be added to FEH

Fire Emblem Heroes is not only a prime example of how to successfully adapt a game from console to mobile — it’s a masterclass in making and running a mobile free to play game, period.


In one of the game’s most recent patches a mysterious new resource was introduced: the Sacred Coin.

Sacred Coins are given as a reward for players that are able to achieve a high enough rank on one of the game’s new game modes: Arena Assault.

30 Sacred Coins (plus a few thousand feathers that are used to upgrade characters) are given to players ranked 1 to 100. Players lower in rank are given less, with only the top 300,000 players awarded with coins.

Arena Assault ranks are resolved only once every week, so a player can only get at most 30 coins every week.

Intelligent Systems did not say what the Sacred Coins will be used for. Players have no idea what their value is, but at least 300,000 players are playing the game and hoarding them.

What is the value of a Sacred Coin, if we don’t even know what they’ll be used for?

The introduction of Sacred Coins has added an element of speculation and suspense to the game, as players eagerly await an announcement on what they can be used on. Will they be similar to Feathers, which can be used to upgrade characters? Or are they like the game’s base hard currency, Orbs, which can be used to summon characters? Maybe they’re going to be used for something else entirely!

The Sacred Coin is also an interesting case for determining the value of a resource. An Orb is something we can easily pin a value to — as a hard currency, they can be bought for real money at approximately $0.50 a piece. Sacred Coins, on the other hand, are only earned through successfully completing an action. Would it be possible then to find a value assigned to a Sacred Coin, similar to how we compute the eCPM of a rewarded video ad?


Even as we don’t know anything about Sacred Coins yet though, most players already have a high degree of confidence in their value. This confidence isn’t actually rooted on the coin’s current usability, but rather on one important metric: player trust.

Players have seen how Fire Emblem Heroes has steadily improved, week after week. They’ve seen how new mechanics and characters are thoughtfully introduced, balanced, and effectively communicated by Intelligent Systems to players even before they go live. The players’ trust may not be an easily measurable metric, but it’s undoubtedly one of the biggest influences on how we value an unknown currency.

Compare this with a haphazardly updated game, where the currency a player earns is always under threat of being wiped on the next patch. Intelligent Systems have done a great job maintaining their players’ trust, and it’s this trust that gives the Sacred Coins their value.


In any case, Sacred Coins will probably be worth more than the orbs i used on my last pull.

Dang it, I already have 10 of those!

Today’s Moment of Zen:

“gold is valuable as a currency or investment because we believe it is valuable (which is the same reason for valuing money itself). Gold’s value as currency is an abstract social construct.” 
― Paul VignaThe Age of Cryptocurrency: How Bitcoin and Digital Money Are Challenging the Global Economic Order

Thank you for reading! Follow Game Design Inspirations on Medium for weekly and past GDIs.


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