The game currency is the basis of any frituplein economy, according to the product manager of Tilting Point Javier Barnes (Javier Barnes). In total, he identifies 11 of its types.
Barnes shared his reasoning in a column on Gamasutra. We have chosen the main thing from the material.
What is the game currency
The currency itself has no value, says Barnes. But it can be exchanged for items important to players. This makes the currency valuable in the eyes of users.
Hence the main definition of a currency is a medium of exchange. And it is for this reason that neither experience points nor any trophies reflecting the user’s progress or status can be attributed to it, for example.
1. Hard currency
Hard currency is a universal means of payment. Gamers can use it to buy not only items in the game, but also other currency. The main source of its revenue is the IAP.
Examples of hard currency are crystals in Brawl Stars and gold bars in Candy Crush Saga.
The same crystals in Brawl Stars are exchanged both directly for content and for coins used to buy fighters.
Hard currency is not always bought by players. Users are also rewarded with it in a very limited amount.
An excess of hard currency, as a rule, either indicates the absence of payment funnels, or the absence of a balance.
2. Soft currency
Soft currency is a general purpose currency. It is the main means of payment.
Its value in the eyes of users is much less than the value of a solid one. The reason is obvious: during gaming sessions (that is, playing), users receive a sufficient amount of such currency for progress.
Examples of soft currency: loans from Call of Duty Mobile and coins from Idle Miner Tycoon. The first ones are the main reward for winning matches, and the second ones automatically appear on the user’s account over time.
A small digression:
In fritupley, monetization is dominated by just built on hard and soft currencies. Barnes calls it two-currency. Its main task is to separate free content from premium content.
Of course, this is also possible using only one currency. For example, in Playrix projects, only soft is used. But it can be more difficult in terms of controlling in-game receipts and spending. The risk of devaluation is much higher, which leads to the fact that players do not see the point of spending real money on IAP.
3. Internal currency (Medium currency)
The internal currency is the one that players receive through the grind, but which has its own limitations (when using or accumulating).
As a rule, its implementation makes the gaming economy more resistant to devaluation (an overabundance of a single gaming resource may not hit the entire balance), and at the same time provides additional opportunities for monetization of the title (the restrictions are often removed with the help of IAP).
Barnes identifies four approaches to limiting domestic currencies.
Restriction on savings
Developers can prohibit players from either saving more than a certain amount at all, or make this process as difficult as possible.
For example, in Rise of Kingdoms, the more money there is in the vault, the more attractive it becomes for enemies. The user has to invest real money in the game to protect the vault from raids.
On the other hand, you can limit the process of grinding itself. Let the player save as much as he wants. Only then can the developer set him a limit on resource extraction: an hour a day, several times a week, or simply limit the inventory for rewards to just a couple of cells.
According to Barnes, this option is especially suitable for multiplayer projects. Long game sessions are important in them, because the players themselves are content for each other. The reward is secondary here, and just the restriction on receiving it becomes a significant funnel of monetization.
Another example of using this concept is energy. In most games, it simply stops being generated after it accumulates to the limit (but more on it below).
Restriction on use
Another option with the addition of restrictions is that a gamer cannot use a resource if its quantity does not correspond to a certain value.
For example, a player cannot spend his earnings until he accumulates a certain amount. Or he needs several different resources at once to buy. Or in the game, it is very rare to find the items themselves that can be bought for currency.
In Hay Day, Barnes writes, different resources are needed to update items in the game. Only a part of them can be captured. As a result, the absence of some important resources makes excessive grinding pointless. This strongly motivates the user to buy the missing items.
4. Energy (Energy currency)
Energy is a currency that is exchanged exclusively for game time.
It is usually spent on lives to retake a level in games like Candy Crush or Homescapes. Or energy is paid for the opportunity to do some specific action, as in the Monster Legends dungeons.
The purpose of energy is to limit the time that the user spends in the game for free.
5. Currencies of in-game modes (Feature currency)
In-game mode currencies are those currencies that are exceptionally relevant for modes and events derived from the main game economy.
It can be a resource (internal currency), or energy, or even a soft currency. No matter. The main thing is that you can spend it only within the framework of certain mechanics, which does not interact in any way (or in a minimal way) with the main game cycle (core loop).
The most illustrative example is Star Wars: Galaxy of Heroes, where over time separate campaigns are opened, in which a separate type of energy is spent on progress.
The introduction of such currencies solves many problems. Barnes identifies three:
- to force a gamer to play in one mode or another, promising just the desired currency as a reward (for example, in Idle Heroes, participation in the “brave man’s test” is the only way to get dragon scales. This scale is the only currency accepted in the test store, which sells exclusive content);
- isolate the entire system from the in-game economy in order to facilitate its management, balance and analysis (for example, in War Dragons, the user has to search for breeding tokens to create new dragons. This resource is used only within the framework of this mechanics, so the authors of the game use it as a reward anywhere and not be afraid to spoil the balance);
- restrict access to a certain function, the excessive use of which harms the economy. In the same Clash Royale, unlimited trading among users can cause serious damage to monetization. Therefore, the developers have introduced trading tokens that are needed to access trading. Tokens are always under control and are issued infrequently.
6. Social or viral currency (Social currency)
A special currency that stimulates virality, social engagement and interaction within the game.
Separately, Barnes stipulates that the word “virality” has two meanings:
- attracting new users to the game through already playing (classic k-factor). That is, in this case, gamers distribute the game among people they already know in real life;
- encouraging gamers to interact more actively with other players to increase engagement and retention (neighbor effect or network effect). Usually such users do not know each other in reality.
In practice, the second value of virality is much more often used. After all, attracting new players alone is not enough to support an entire currency.
Puzzle & Dragons card butler has levels with dungeons. To enter them, the player needs to take a monster belonging to another gamer as an assistant. For using a monster, its owner receives friendship points. Moreover, monsters of players from the friends list bring more friendship points than monsters of random users.
But the creators of Summoners War went a little different way. There, players can receive daily social points as a gift from their friends list. This encourages users to add active gamers as friends and delete inactive ones.
7. Guild currency
Currency that is associated with clans/unions/guilds and the like. Usually associated with the relevant game mechanics.
You can only get it in guilds. Unlike other currencies, it is usually generated not by one person, but by several at once. But because of this, the guild currency needs additional control, otherwise the balance of the game will be disrupted.
Examples of working with guild currency:
- the currency is collected and used by all guild members, but only the heads spend it. For example, Shop Titans has prestige that guild leaders can spend on their chosen boosts and perks for the entire clan.;
- the currency is available to each individual gamer, but players can “reset” for common purposes. All in the same Shop Titans, users can, if desired, unite and improve the city. The benefits of the upgrade will be available to everyone;
- the currency is available to each individual gamer, but it is generated thanks to common efforts. This is what happens with guild points in Summoners Wars.
Barnes notes that sometimes the currency of guilds can also have a social color. For example, it can be used to evaluate the gamer’s contribution to the game — good players bring a lot of currency and vice versa. This helps with the hierarchy in teams. In addition, from time to time, the heads of clans can set quotas for participants and expel those who have not earned enough money from the group.
8. Event currency
The event currency is the currency of in—game modes, which is temporary and works exclusively within the time-limited event.
Events are useful for monetization and increasing engagement. They introduce whole levels of game economy that are completely independent of the main game.
But it will not be possible to do this if the players who have accumulated a lot of gold are allowed to use it in the event. Such users will easily be able to spend money to circumvent the requirements of the event, or even buy awards without actually participating in the event itself. As a result, the developer will have to balance this event several times for different user profiles.
The event currency completely eliminates this problem. It does not exist for long and works only in a limited time event. In addition, thanks to this currency, events become more independent and easy to manage. It also motivates players to spend more.
As an example, Barnes cited the game Family Guy: Quest for stuff. In it, during the Star Trek event, users earned a unique currency, which disappeared at the end of the event. It could be spent on exclusive items.
9. Reset currency or “dust” (Discard currency)
This currency is obtained after the destruction of items.
It is usually used by the player when he gets a weak or not very necessary item at the moment. In this case, the thing can, for example, be “sprayed” and then the resulting currency can be used elsewhere.
What else does the reset currency allow you to do:
- combine useless items into more valuable ones;
- dispose of obsolete items;
- get rid of unsuccessful drops and turn them into items that are really important;
- collect collections by removing repetitions from it and allowing you to create missing items from the “dust”. This feature works well in the collectible card game Hearthstone, where it would be very difficult to assemble a decent deck without “dust”.;
- update inventory, which may lose relevance due to the change of meta at a new level.
10. VIP currency or “prestige” (VIP currency)
VIP currency is the reward of players for making an IAP.
The most striking example is Steam. After the purchase in the store, the user receives special Steam points. This money can then be spent on stickers for chats, profile decoration and rewards for other users.
Barnes points out that in most games, “prestige” is issued not for making payments, but for progress. They say that it stimulates users better.
11. Informal currency (Informal currency)
Informal currency — game elements that are very effectively used by gamers as a means of exchange, although they were not conceived by such developers.
An illustrative example is Ultima Online. In the game, gold was devalued because it was constantly automatically generated. In addition, there was practically nowhere to store it because of the limit set by the developers. Whereas horse manure was almost not found in the game and was valued at the level of diamonds.