Diminishing Returns

law of diminishing returns

  1. used to refer to a point at which the level of profits or benefits gained is less than the amount of money or energy invested.

Definitions from Oxford Languages

I have several games that I have played for years. Among them Horse Haven, and Castle Cats.  I am at a rather ridiculous level. And I’ve noticed something about that. The other day, I leveled up in Horse Haven. 

Big whoop.

You will see that the reward for going up to level 58 is five diamonds. FIVE diamonds. You can earn more than five diamonds for your daily log in. You can earn 3 diamonds per video to watch about five videos a day. What I am saying here is five diamonds, big fucking deal. There are only about five people in my gynormous friends list who are at a higher level. It takes months to go up a level for me these days. And my reward is… five diamonds. 

The last time I leveled up at Castle Cats, it was a similar situation. I screen capped it, too but my phone summarily deleted all my photos a few days ago so it’s gone. 

Is it me, or are all these little visit us every single day mobile games set up so that the higher level you become – after a certain point – the smaller the rewards are. It’s as if they are simply running out of stuff to give you. Which, being as how it is cyberland and cybereconomy, seems a little unlikely unless their imagination is that limited. And you know, Albert Einstein said there is no limit to the imagination. 

The end result is I am less motivated to continue playing at this point. Horse Haven, especially, is set up such that although I have the licenses for Tier 4 for almost every breed, I cannot GET a Tier 4 foal, or even a Tier 3 foal, without spending 1000 to 2000 diamonds. The cash/game diamonds economy is fucked in Horse Haven and I have always known this. You pay $20 real cash for a horse, $40 if you want a pair (and you’re LUCKY to get a male/female) and get 10 diamonds if you sell that same horse. Horse Haven economics. So I know that. Essentially, the higher up I get, the harder it gets or the more cash it costs for anything I might actually still want. 

Castle Cats is a totally different game and economics, and the whole diamonds and gems thing actually works much better in their game. I’ve had no real complaints, nor have I ever felt like I got screwed (a feeling Horse Haven gives me on a very regular basis). Overall, it is a kinder and gentler game to the player. But it is reaching a point now where I am feeling that law of diminishing returns. I have to work twice as hard to get what I want and then it isn’t something I wanted all that bad. 

The Law of Diminishing Returns, quoted above, is something they teach in Economics. I studied business a few eons ago and learned it. It fits this situation perfectly. The higher level you achieve in certain games, the harder you must work and the less they reward you for your achievements. In turn, this makes me, as a player, less happy and less likely to continue to bother playing this particular game as the rewards diminish. Maybe it’s just me. 

I doubt that game developers spend a lot of time studying economics. You would think that anyone who is charged with setting up a game economy that works might want to spend some time with that, but apparently not. My thoughts are that as you reward your really high level players less and less and they wander off to the billions of other games they could play you are losing the very players who have given you their time and no doubt, money, for an extended period of time. It seems to me you would want to hang onto these players. They’re a proven commodity. They have spent money and will spend it again, and might very well have YOUR GAME as an actual line item in their household budget!

What would it cost you, game developers, to give as generous rewards to the high level players as you do to the lower and middle level players? 

Why not give us a chest full of diamonds – that is maybe just a wee bit shy of the number of diamonds we need for the next big thing? If you gave me a chest of 2000 diamonds, Horse Haven, and I needed 2500 to get that foal I want, and here I am all happy at leveling, I just might be inclined to shrug and pay a few bucks to get the last 500 diamonds. Or if you are opposed to giving us diamonds that you want us to buy for cash, give us some other incentive. How about a few “golden tickets” that we can use when breeding to get the foal of our choice? Or an opposite sex horse to complete our pair of a special or constellation horse we have purchased? It doesn’t cost you, the developer, anything – but it would be enough of a substantial reward to get me playing like hell to get the next level and the golden tickets so I could finally get the Tier 4 horses I’ve already worked to get the certificates for! 

Okay, I am pointing the finger at Horse Haven a lot because they are especially guilty of cheap rewards and a really screwed game economy, but they are not alone in this. All you game developers, don’t get lazy and cheap when it comes to rewarding higher level players. Sure, you think you’ve got them hooked – and you do – but they do still have the option to walk away if they feel unrewarded for the hard work they put in playing your game. On the other hand, be a little more generous – of cyber stuff that doesn’t cost you a freaking dime – and they may be more inclined to continue to play and spend money and time on your game.


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