micro dlc

anonymous asked:

Why do triple-AAA games such as Overwatch tend to prefer a lottery-based system (ie. loot crates) for cosmetic DLC/micro-transactions as opposed to one in which you can just directly buy the content you want to receive (ie. the systems that Titanfall 2 and League of Legends use)? Do the benefits outweigh the potential media backlash and frustrated feelings from players? Do the % of players buying in each system change? How about the amount of cash spent per player? The frequency of purchases?

So… the answer to all of these questions is, essentially, yes. Randomized booster packs earn way more than purchases a la carte - in fact, they often earn an order of magnitude more than specific item transactions of a comparable price. There’s a weird combination of neurochemistry and cognitive science that explains this phenomenon and most monetization of gaming has moved to take advantage of this, but the overall answer is yes. We sell a lot more to a lot more players this way, and the backlash isn’t actually that big. 

The human brain is a funny thing. Inside our heads, we have a bunch of little glands that release specific chemicals that cause certain reactions or sensations… pleasure, fear, alertness, pain, drowsiness, calm, and so on. One such chemical is called dopamine, which triggers the pleasure centers in our brains. When we get a reward we want while we are expecting it, such as finally buying a game we’ve been anticipating, our brains triggers the release of a small amount of dopamine and we feel good. However, if we get a reward while we are not expecting it, like if we catch a home run ball at a baseball game, our brains trigger a large amount of dopamine and we feel great. This is why gamblers feel such a rush when they win, and why finally getting that epic drop from the raid boss makes it all worthwhile. Many players will keep playing or paying in hopes of obtaining that sweet rare thing. This sort of randomized reward distribution is often called a “Skinner Box” after Harvard researcher B.F. Skinner, who studied operant conditioning - how to condition the operator (player) to make a specific choice - and it shows up to some extent in practically all games.

This is why booster packs, random drops, randomly determined pokemon abilities or randomly generated item modifiers as game mechanics are never going away. We, as players and consumers, respond to them in a nearly-visceral manner, and this reaction translates directly to monetization. It might sound callous to say so, but it isn’t possible to have highs without also having lows to compare the highs to. The frustrations are, indeed, frustrating… and this is why we often put in some sort of trading or crafting system as a safety net in order to eventually obtain what you want if the RNG is being unkind. But it’s also a neurochemical source of the rush you feel when you roll the natural twenty and critically hit the dungeon boss to win the fight. Because it’s such a visceral effect, we react this way when there’s money involved as well - the presence of real money just raises the stakes so that the rush is even bigger when we finally get that reward we’ve been craving. It’s also important that we recognize these sort of reward mechanics for what they are, so that we don’t overindulge in them to our own detriment.