Tobold's Blog
Saturday, October 03, 2020
Pay for Power

I have been playing a lot of mobile games that were very openly Pay2Win: You go through a linear series of challenges, which become harder and harder, getting rewards that make your heroes stronger and stronger. However this is deliberately designed in a way that if you play for free, your heroes get stronger slower than the challenges get harder, and at some point you become blocked by what is known as the "paywall". So you pay to get stronger faster, which advances you further in the game, until you hit the next paywall, ad infinitum.

Genshin Impact is very weird in the monetization aspect. On the one side you can clearly pay large amounts of money to get strong 5-star heroes and weapons. On the other side, either there is no paywall, or the paywall comes a lot later. At launch, Genshin Impact has 2 regions, out of a final 7. But those 2 regions are estimated to already have 60 hours worth of content in them, and the third region might be coming as early as the next patch in a few weeks. You can play those 60 hours of current content using just the heroes the game gives you for free. And as that is as much content as you might get when buying a triple-A game on a console, getting this much content without a paywall is rather generous.

So how can this possibly work? It works because gamers *always* want to be stronger, regardless of whether a stronger hero is really required or not. You can get gamers to pay for power, even if that power isn't required to win, and isn't strictly speaking pay to win. It also works because the notion that games are for children, and children don't have much disposable income, is now completely outdated. The average mobile gamer is 36 years old and female. And this population is increasingly encroaching onto the "male teen" territory of console gaming, with console games like Animal Crossing or Genshin Impact. Adults not only have more disposable income, they are also quite used to spending larger amounts of that on their leisure activities. Spending $600 on Genshin Impact may seem a lot, if compared to the cost of a video game; but it isn't all that excessive if you compare it to the cost of let's say a skiing trip. I'm pretty certain that the makers of Genshin Impact are raking in a lot of cash, even if there isn't a paywall in the game (yet).

...and then there are those spending 5000$+ too.
I gave it a go and I honestly can't keep playing it. Maybe I am too old for this style (anime, right?) but dealing with sexualized skinny teens in sexy clothes makes me extremely uncomfortable. The childish voice doesn't help either. Too bad, because the world seems very well done... But I find it impossible to immerse myself in this weird sexy world.
The difficulty of games varies with skill too. If it's a game that suits you, you might enjoy the challenge more when playing free! Quite a few games are like that.

Other devs keep the difficulty reasonable and hope that players who enjoy the game will happily pay something, for non-essential or even cosmetic stuff. Or just to make progress easier though it wasn't blocked.

I suspect in many cases they cast the net wide for all sorts. Marvel Puzzle Quest has a nice option that gives you good bonus rewards for a month when you buy anything. Buying something almost useless for $2 once a month is a popular choice and good value (though far from essential) if you enjoy the game. But they have the $60 dollar packages for whales too!
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