Casual game developer Three Rings Design announced that it will give away a 1787 Spanish Gold Escudo Doubloon to the player that purchases the five millionth in-game doubloon in the online PC puzzle MMO game Puzzle Pirates
The company recently switched to a new hybrid pricing strategy for Puzzle Pirates
, adding a "free-to-play" model that includes the option of purchasing doubloons as a form of micropayment to spend on in-game upgrades and additional content. Three Rings has kept two of the game's 'ocean' servers fully subscription-based, however, and players on these servers can get access to all in-game content for a single monthly fee.
Nonetheless, the company's founder Daniel James recently commented
at GDC 2006 that "these [micropayment based] servers greatly outperform the remaining subscription-based areas." Thus, the company sees the sale of five million doubloons (each doubloon costs between 20 and 25 cents, depending on bulk purchases) as an important milestone, as it indicates a broad acceptance of the micro-payment model. In fact, the company is launching a new game called Bang! Howdy
, a multiplayer online tactical strategy game for the PC which uses the same payment structure and online distribution model.
"Three Rings has led the charge for micro-currency in the US market, and the success of Puzzle Pirates
doubloons has convinced us that it represents the future for online entertainment," said Daniel James, Three Rings' CEO. "We were inspired by the Korean market, where 'free to play, pay for item' is the ubiquitous business model for online games. As the U.S. market matures to meet Korea, we intend to keep leading the way."
With the shift to the new pricing model, Three Rings Design recently became cash-flow positive and funds the distribution and development of its games internally. To date, over 1.5 million individuals have downloaded Puzzle Pirates