Why haven’t more top-tier games introduced real-world rewards into their games? These are the titles where 99.9% of gamers are not professional esports athletes and enjoy no monetary rewards for the thousands of hours spent playing their favorite games. The opportunity to introduce monetary rewards has always been on the table. Why hasn’t anyone done it?
The answer lies in one of the cornerstone behavioral patterns that accompany motivation: overjustification. This well-documented mechanism reduces peoples’ interest in an activity.
It is the presence of extrinsic rewards, such as cash and prizes. Money weakens intrinsic motivation, which traditional developers say is crucial to long-term player retention.
Games need to avoid injecting monetary rewards into an experience that is designed to be intrinsically rewarding. The enjoyment of beating a tough boss in a Dark Souls-style game stems from the fact that it requires considerable skill.
If you attach a $0.50 reward to that experience, you will end up destroying it. Participating in a FIFA video game tournament with your friends only to earn $0.15 would take the fun out of it. Offering zero dollars removes the monetary consideration and channels the focus entirely toward the game experience.
Every game has a set of mechanisms designed specifically for user retention, monetization and reactivation. These should be more profound than expecting players to return solely for tokens.
Economics without psychology
An economist ignorant of human behavior or gaming might first consider how to incentivize users to play more. The more hours a user plays, the more value players can extract from their transactions; consequently, power-users are more likely to pay for items and transactions within the game.
Therefore, increasing user retention is imperative. It increases monetization and the projected revenue per user. Suppose a user generates $0.60 per hour of gameplay on average, and you know from data and behavioral patterns that there’s a risk they stop playing entirely. The logic follows that you can start paying them $0.30 to incentivize them to continue.
Here is where overjustification comes into play.
From a pure economics standpoint, paying $0.30 and generating $0.60 is a 100% return on investment; this, ostensibly, makes complete sense. Yet, adopting such an approach is precisely where play-to-earn games are…