Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Carrots, Sticks, and How To Move Horses

When I first signed up for S2, they asked me to write a paper on things I wanted to see. At the top of my list was an in-game currency for players to earn and exchange for skins and other in-game cosmetic items. Today, this system is in-place and working very much the way I imagined it would.

Then when HoN 2.0 was first announced, and players heard about the prospect of earning coins, vivid irrational images of money flashed before their eyes and outrage was generated. As someone who specializes in gaging community reactions this shouldn't have come to any surprise to me, but honestly, at that point I was knee deep in HoN 2.0 anticipation that I would be lying if I said I wasn't somewhat disappointed at the initial community reaction. Even the most rational and constructive communities had initial backlashes, labeling the store as "gimmicks for money".

As someone who plays a lot of PC games, it's no surprise that micro-transactions are becoming more frequent in games- but this article isn't about the fact that the shop has been a financial success- I don't get paid to make money, I get paid to interact with and improve the community. When I first wrote my article about giving players a currency based system, the very last thing on my mind was a way to profit from a currency system- I knew it was going to happen but it didn't interest me as a player.

An aspect of in-game currency that people love to underestimate is it's ability for developers to have leverage on players. As somebody who is beginning to study Economics, I love the concept of incentives. Incentives are exactly what they sound like- a reason for a person to do something. Before HoN 2.0 came out, S2 had no incentives to haggle with- besides maybe a few forum icons.

What you see here is the beginning of something beautiful- a way for S2 to give players incentives to do things. Yes, one of the things S2 can do with this is to incite you to give them your money- and yes, that has obviously happened, but again, that isn't why we're here. The ability to create incentives for players in HoN is a unique opportunity to get the community to do virtually anything- to play more, to play better, to behave nicer.

Arguably counter-productive

While community based initiatives have good intentions to better the community, their rate of return is horrendously bad. With goblin coins, behavior can be directly affected and changed for the better.

A lot of people attribute the increase of players post HoN 2.0 to the new and improved Matchmaking system. While the new Matchmaking system is indeed fantastic, an aspect that people often don't take into account are coin bonuses. It's absolutely no coincidence that there are coins bonuses for consecutive games or for first games of the day- these bonuses are set in place to give players an incentive to begin playing and to keep playing.

So, while players love to oversimplify goblin coins as a quick way for S2 to turn a buck, the truth is that goblin coins are much more than that. Giving players something to work forward to, giving them incentives to change their behavior and to contribute information (in the forms of surveys, guides and videos), goblin coins are going to be the driving force behind a lot of things you will hopefully see soon.


  1. Yesterday i just thought about who came up with that money making goblin coin mashine .. i have no doubt that it generates big income for S2 Games and giving them more opportunities to improve the game (2weeks 1hero ;) ).. If u gave every player 1 gc for saying "gl hf" at start and "gg" at the end, players would do it.. Hope there will some more nice ideas like this from you in the future, keep up the good work !

  2. Along the same lines... goblin coins for better behaviour? I'd love to see that.

    Perhaps the opposite of a "report a player" system - a "reward a player" system, where if you play with or against someone who you thought was particularly forgiving when you made a mistake, helpful, and generally NOT a dick (something that actually raises eyebrows in HoN) then you press then button and throw them a few coins.

    I immediately thought of obvious abuses... but still, I'd love to see rewards-for-better-behaviour