Dungeon Boss and Retail Therapy
Posted by Tobold's Blog [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 1 February 2016, 1:50 am
With my interests in games and economy, I am naturally interested in the mechanics of Free2Play monetization. And my day job pays enough for me to be able to drop a couple of hundred bucks on such a game to explore that monetization without that hurting my finances. Last year I played League of Angels for 2 months. While I was able to get to the top spot on a server using real money, I didn't really like psychological lever that game used: Competitiveness, you'd end up paying money so that somebody else wouldn't get ahead of you. So currently I am trying a very different game, Dungeon Boss. That can be as expensive as League of Angels, but the psychology behind it is much more pleasant.

Because League of Angels *wants* a lot of people to be highly ranked on their server so as to make them pay money for the privilege, it has lots and lots of servers, with new ones opening every week. Dungeon Boss only has one server as far as I can tell. Which means that there is absolutely no chance for latecomers to rise to the top of the server. Which doesn't matter, because unlike League of Angels, Dungeon Boss has very little direct competition between players. Even the PvP system automatically just pairs you against people around your own strength, so it doesn't matter that there are people at the level cap while you aren't. Competitiveness is not a driving factor in this game. So how does it work?

Basically Dungeon Boss is related to the Pokemon series of games: You have a collection of up to 50 heroes in 5 different colors which you level up and use for combat. The colors represent elements, so your fire heroes are strong against plant heroes but weak against water heroes, etc. Each hero has a level (which is limited by your player level), between 2 and 4 skills with a level that is limited by the hero level, 3 degrees of ascension (which determines the number of skills), and between 1 and 6 stars, which increase power. So for each hero you need to collect xp to level up, "evos" to ascend, gold to level up skills, and tokens to get stars. Multiply by 50 heroes and there is a *lot* of stuff to collect. That puts you on a rather long progress curve from starting the game to the level cap.

Monetization in Dungeon Boss as a result is an extremely simple concept: You have absolute freedom to choose at which speed you want to progress. Want to get ahead on that completely individual curve? Pay some money! Usually quite a lot of it, a special bundle of stuff that improves one of your heroes can cost between $9.99 and $39.99, depending on the rarity of the hero. And that is just one ascension out of two possible, so for 50 heroes you would need to buy 100 such bundles. Plus a ton of money for gold and gems to use the portals to summon those heroes. On the other hand you can also play this game completely for free, and just progress much slower. It is up to you. The game doesn't threaten you with any negative effects if you refuse to pay, it just tries to seduce you into paying when you feel like it. Any payment also counts towards your VIP level, so if you paid at the start and then play for free you still get some permanent bonuses in addition to whatever you paid for. I've rarely seen a game that was so nice about trying to get money out of you; the carrot, not the stick.

I still don't believe that any single game can "addict" you into spending money. However I do believe that spending money can make you feel better about yourself, the so-called retail therapy. Whether you do that in the mall or in a mobile game is not fundamentally different. For every sob story about somebody spending all his money on a mobile game, there is an equivalent story about somebody spending all his money on the shopping TV channel. And to someone who is likely to have such problems, it doesn't even matter what game exactly he is playing. The process of trying to feel better by spending money is independent of what exactly you are spending that money on.
Tobold's Blog

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