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Monday, April 1, 2013

[MMO General] Trial Run

One of the smarter moves I think most F2P MMOs are making lately is the shift towards having trial periods for their premium or special options. This page out of the drug dealer playbook does help solve the problem of getting people to want to make that magical first purchase. As I have heard, the hardest gap to cross is getting people to spend that initial bit of cash, and thus anything to make players more likely to spend money is success. Finding the right balance between giving players a taste and removing the need to spend money or resources entirely is something few have managed to hit right on the nose, so below I wanted to address a few. Of course, it should be noted that because each game is different, that sweet spot exists in a different place for each.
League of Legends

So I'll start with what I consider the strongest, League of Legends. Here, you are allowed to test drive 10 heroes per week; the heroes are selected by the developer and follow a semi-consistent cycle.

What you see each week; taken from LoL's website.
They are not entirely random, they are tailored in part to the meta so that each role of the meta can be fulfilled by even new players with some certainty. However, the system is a bit unpredictable and if you want a specific hero, you might have to wait a LONG time for heroes who fall into the roles that are a bit saturated.

So while this system gives you a "taste" of each hero, tailored so that new heroes show up 2-3 weeks after release, the inability to choose can make it hard to tell if you like a hero before you buy. However this works in favor of the developer, in encouraging people to buy heroes that are new to have them first, or to buy heroes because they enjoyed them during the trial rather than making targeted choices. In an ideal world, once per week or month a player would be able to test a specific hero for a period of time...perhaps a day. Otherwise though, the system works very well, so I hold it up as a good example.


Taking a page out of League of Legend's book, Hawken allows players to, in a limited capacity, "test drive" 2 of their 11 (soon to be 12) mechs. There are some limitations of course. In Hawken, players earn experience by playing which they can use to optimize and tweak their mech.
Had my cursor over the raider when I took the screenshot...oh that sweet delicious Corsair...
Test Driven mechs still earn experience, but it can't be spent until the player actually buys it. This works well in allowing a person to get a taste of what they can expect, but it does limit this in some obnoxious ways. The first is that most mechs have 3 weapons they can swap between, but in test drive mode, because you can't optimize your mech, you only have access to the first which is often one people stop using as soon as they have access to other weapons. This is not universally true, but is definitely the majority. Second, being unable to optimize means the mech will perform well below potential, which for some can give an inaccurate image of what to expect. Lastly, the test drive period is something like two weeks long, so while it gives you ample time to test out a mech, it doesn't keep the doors rotating very quickly and it can mean that if you want to try out something specific you are going to need to wait a very long time.

Planetside 2

I consider this the worst of the lot, because while their "trial" system is noble in intent, it falls on its face quickly on. In Planetside 2, a player can test a single weapon every 24 hours, with a delay on how often you can re-test a specific weapon. You have 30 minutes to use this weapon. You cannot spend any certs on it...and there's the rub. Most weapons are vastly inferior without having certs spent on them. Sniper rifles? Enjoy the 3x (or whatever the default was...4x?) scope; when most players likely use the 8-12x's. Assault rifles and carbines tend not to be used without some form of scope and attachments. So really the "trial" becomes "What this gun will be like in the 3 minutes before you upgrade it." I know that it is on the Roadmap, but it seems like it would be a relatively easy change to let people "sample" certs with their trial equipment (just give them ALL the certs for it, that would entice players even more because now they'd see the weapon at full potential). The game has somewhat improved this with the VR Training area, but that only gives you a feel for how the weapon handles against stationary targets, not against human opponents.

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