Optimizing Your Tutorial – How to Introduce Currency in a Virtual Economy

On July 19, 2011

You can have 20 million users download you freemium application, but if only 2 of them spend more than 30 seconds in your app you have a problem! This week we will look at the ways currency can be introduced and the best way to introduce users to your games virtual economy.

Dad to son: “Don’t spend it all in one place”

I remember as a child, although infrequently, receiving money from my parents for a number of reasons. Monetary reward would come from performing chores, good grades and birthday events. Receiving this fine coinage would always be accompanied with the phrase “Don’t spend it all in one place!”…. and while my father’s intentions really weren’t for me to spread my cash across multiple places, he did attempt to warn me against spending my money foolishly. Growing up my father was always delivering sound bites on money management regardless of how much they were ignored, but the point was eventually digested and I soon better understood how to spend my money. In the way that my father educated me, we as game developers need to educate our users on how to operate or “spend” money in the virtual game economies that we create.

Currency introduced through gameplay

The best way to teach is through action. Encourage your user to take action that requires spending virtual currency. Always reinforce the spending with a positive experience so that a user knows spending money is valuable. All successful simulation games on the mobile market today introduce currency as unique steps in their tutorial… or at least require it be used within the first few sessions of gameplay.

Quarters, Nickels and Dimes

Many games these days have multiple currency types know as premium (primary) currency and secondary currency. Primary currency typically is defined as being rare and tightly tied to real dollar value while secondary currency can be easy to earn and readily accessible. Depending on the game, you can choose to charge real dollars for both premium and secondary currencies or simply just premium. Make sure to introduce both currencies during game but do so separately. Be careful to introduce users to your currency all in one step or action. Spread out the introduction over a series of steps so that they can fully grasp how the decisions they make regarding their purchases affect gameplay.


Missions vs. Tutorial

Next week we will talk about the differences of missions vs. tutorials and the value each play in a mobile gaming environment.

Do you have a question about freemium gaming or a topic you’d like us to explore? Let us know in the comments or catch us on twitter @rechargestudios or @w3i.

Freemium Game Blogs are published in partnership with the series on W3i’s corporate blog.

Matt Tubergen heads Recharge Studios, a wholly owned subsidiary of W3i that invests in the development and marketing/distribution of freemium mobile games.  W3i is a market leader in distributing and monetizing apps with over 500 million apps distributed for W3i clients. Recharge Studios is actively seeking new investment opportunities, if you have a great idea for a game contact us.