Time versus reward is a potent scheme used frequently by F2P (Free to play) games that include a cash shop. Time versus reward is an formula (X≤R) that puts a player in a position where they have to spend X amount of time farming for in-game currency for the same R reward that a user may instead receive instantly by spending real money in the cash shop. This works great for people who don’t have the time to invest every waking hour in the game and have extra money to spend. It also promises that someone who can’t spend the money can be on even footing with those who can if they devote a little more time to the game.
The Shady Art Of Origami
On paper this seems fair and everyone is happy. The developers get paid for their hard work. Players who want to spend gratuitous amounts of time and little money on the game get what they need. Likewise, those with a little disposable income don’t have to slay a thousand boars to collect a pittance to pay for what they want. On paper it’s all sherry and giggles until the developers decide to bend and twist that parchment into a complex origami ruse. Suckering players in with false promises of compensation and then failing to deliver on them.
Doing Time For The Coin
In many cases this works just fine and players are content with the arrangement, but in all things there is a darker side. A side in which companies offer premium objects that severely alter the balance of the game and greatly reward those willing to pop those lavish tags. The dingy dirty side where the amount of time you’d have to spend to obtain even the smallest of objects offered in the cash shop outweighs any real world attainment. The side they don’t advertise when they tell the world that you can experience everything the game has to offer without spending a dime because everything can be earned ‘eventually’.
As an avid gamer and delver into the dark and mysterious world of online gaming I’ve observed this feature time and time again. I’ve played those games where you get a “buck” every time you level up. Where you need a hundred “bucks” to make the smallest of purchases and of course those occasions when you find you can only level up to ninety nine and therefore will always be one shy of being able to buy anything.
Not So Much Math As It Is Common Sense
The important thing to assess when developing or using a time versus reward method for a cash shop is to decide the X in the formula X≤R. Where X is time spent to obtain the reward, R is the reward and the formula evaluates whether or not the time spent is less than or equal to the value of the reward. If the time input is greater than the value of the reward, or the time input is such that the reward can never be obtained realistically then you need not bother.
Many online shops use this method of marketing very effectively and equitably. It’s a soft way to get people comfortable spending with you and that usually means further business. You offer up some ‘free’ goods (That really they earn through participation, so not really free) in hopes that you’ll hook the buyer with that participation and get them to spend more later on in their addiction to your game. It becomes shady marketing when you begin making promises of free goods and fail to deliver, either through manipulation or unrealistic terms of fulfillment.
The moral of the story is that if you do use Time vs. Reward in your game don’t think people won’t notice if you cheat them out of their X by not giving them their R.