The principles of success of midcore games. Part 2: Hold

Original author: Michail Katkoff
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Hold is the foundation of a successful F2P game. Players return to the game day after day, month after month, because the game has become a vital service. But creating such a motivator is the highest barrier for developers. Therefore, in this part I will tell you how to overcome this barrier with a thoughtful basic cycle, a balanced economy and, of course, events.

This is the second part of a translation series about successful midcore games. Here is the first part , and of course do not forget to go to Michael's blog .

* Social mechanics, of course, are extremely important for retaining players and the progress of players, however I will leave them outside the scope of this post, but I will definitely return to them in the following.

the main goal

I think there is no better way to keep a player than to create a situation in which he would set tasks for himself. Such self-motivated players will enter the game many times during the day. Come in to achieve your goals. But how to create a base of such players? First of all, they need to be encouraged for progress and punished if progress has begun to turn back.

So, the desire to improve something in your game will develop into a desire to progress. And the desire to progress is damn powerful, it will force players to set goals and work on optimizing their game. My opinion is that the desire to become better should be the main goal of the player. Because in a good f2p game, improving the game is equal to progress, and progress is equal to the time spent in the game.

I personally divide the incentives for progress into positive and negative. Positive promise the player that he will become better, reach the highest peaks. Negatives are punished if progress has given backward.

Positive incentives

The game store is one of the best ways to encourage a player’s desire to progress. For example, the price and conditions for unlocking a new unit create a very transparent goal. I must say that the location and order of closed units is also very important - the last most valuable and desired.

Unlocking new units is a transparent goal for players. Moreover, each new unit promises to improve the results of the game.

Negative incentives

Player progress should slow exponentially. Timers will increase, and prices will rise, slowing down and slowing down progress. And at some point it will seem that the next unit or price is not visible in the foreseeable future. Then the negative stimulus should tell the player: “Not one step back!”.

A successful raid is a prime example of a negative stimulus. The player understands that his fortifications are not so good and he urgently needs to develop in order to protect himself.

It is very important not to forget about social mechanics during the development of incentives for progress. Because, progress is not a variable that is easy to measure in numbers. But the opportunity to compare their successes with friends and other players, one way or another, will lead either to alliance or to war.


Sub-tasks are all the steps that a player needs to take in order to achieve the ultimate goal. I personally like to set up subtasks in an interdependent economy. For example, CoC stands out among other strategic games just such an economy. It gives you a transparent goal, but it hides how long the path will actually be to achieve it. Thus, the road to the goal seems to the players simple and easily accessible. And only in the middle of the path they will realize how long the path is, however, the players have already invested so much that there is no way to turn back.

Unlocking the next unit, at first glance, is simple - it’s enough to improve Baraki. But first you need to improve the Town Hall. Oh, and improving the Town Hall costs so much that you can’t do without upgrading the Gold Storage. It seems that everything is logical? True, all this will take 21 days. A couple of raids and the term will double.

There are two approaches to subtasks. The first is when the game designer is almost by force leading the player along the path of progress. The second is to give players freedom. Yes, then the player’s progress may not be optimal. However, the released progress gives developers information on how the average player is developing, whether he is doing everything right. And already this information “gives” TK for the next update of the game.

Here is the Kabam game. It leads the player to the ultimate goal through a rigid mission structure. This allows you to control the game process and optimize it.

Supercell uses an achievement system that further ties the player to the base cycle. Yes, progress will not be optimal, but players are given enough freedom to set goals for themselves, and not just do what the game tells them to.


Regular events are a powerful tool that affects both short-term involvement and long-term retention. Due to its nature, the events motivate the player to spend an incredible amount of time in the game for the short life of the event itself.

Typical event durations are measured in hours, several days, and, in rare cases, weeks. Usually, events are held for any experienced players. In general, events are the spark that can support a player's dying interest and create long-term retention.

Any successful event has three common key points. Firstly, this is the limited life of the event. Secondly, a unique reward only for the event, which is issued only if the player managed to complete all the tasks on time and which cannot be bought. The uniqueness of the award is important for the involvement of players, and the inability to buy it adds status. Plus, the issuance of awards works well for retention, because, again, winning such an award will be something new for a veteran who is already tired of the game. Thirdly, it is very important that the event supports the basic cycle, instead of adding something new to it.

Example: Marvel War of Heroes

From time to time, in PvE quests, a player receives a Treasure (collectible). Each collection item is, of course, a part of the collection, which consists of six such items. As soon as a player collects all six, he receives a unique card. It turns out that the finished collection gives a reward plus protects this collection from robbery - a free Treasure can be stolen, but a complete collection cannot be.

Players can steal missing treasures, and at the same time, cover up already stolen goods with temporary shields.

Of course, having one rare card is not enough - in card games you need at least two cards to turn them into one super powerful. Therefore, the player wants to finish the collection three times - the first time to get an X card, the second time to get another rare card (this is the mechanics of the game), the third time to get an X card again, and finally collect the coveted super powerful unit.

It is especially interesting that the player can steal from others, but others are allowed to steal from the player. The chain of thefts will end only when the collection is complete.

Why theft in the game is an amazing way to monetize:
  • The player needs to collect the collection very quickly, because someone lacks precisely those Treasures that lie in his store. And being fast means buying PvP energy, which is usually not enough.
  • The player must have a strong attacking deck to successfully steal. That is, it would be nice to buy a couple of decks if you have not been able to overcome someone's defense several times already.
  • The player must have a strong protective deck to fight off thieves. That is, it would be nice to buy a couple of decks if you are regularly robbed.
  • The player can also set a temporary shield on an unfinished collection. Moreover, if someone tries to steal a protected good, then he is automatically assigned a defeat. At the same time, the defeat animation is so humiliating that the player wants to go and buy shields on their collections - only to robbers regretted.

Make every game session meaningful

Retention is simply the most significant metric in the game. Successful industry examples keep players for months, motivating them to play half a dozen sessions a day. The player, in total, spends at least an hour a day on these games.

To achieve such indicators, developers must make sure that their players want to progress. Moreover, the path of progress must lie through an interdependent economy. By the way, I don’t spend any time on the so-called holding chips, such as a daily bonus or pop-up reminders, because it's all stucco. Instead, I focused on the economics of the game and its balance.

In general, arouse the desire in players to become better and set goals to the horizon. And then decide for yourself, or you will lead them by the hand through the rigid structure of the missions, or give them the opportunity to set tasks for themselves. In any case, make sure that each game session, even for a little step, but brings them closer to their cherished goal.

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