Tuesday, February 13, 2018

The Problem With "Limited Time" Events in Games

If you play an MMO, you are all too familiar with the seasonal and holiday events that will inevitably appear in your game. The 4th of July for Grand Theft Auto V. Halloween in Final Fantasy XIV. Christmas in every MMO, except Star Wars: The Old Republic, where you get a nice helping of Life Day. More action-adventure and RPG games have been getting in on this, with their persistent worlds providing "limited time" content to keep you invested in replaying the game. More recently there was the Final Fantasy XV and Assassin's Creed: Unity cross-over that allowed you to earn costumes and weapons in the former game, and an ugly chocobo reskin in AssCreed. This particular event lasted around a month, giving gamers enough time to play both titles and earn the rewards.

And then you have games like Monster Hunter: World, with an ongoing promotion tied in with Horizon: Zero Dawn. The first round wrapped up with only 2 weeks of availability, starting when the game released. But this is also a multi-tiered event that will have an additional component later on. It too will likely only have a 2-week availability, and strong requirements to access. With the first portion of the event, you needed to reach rank 6 with your hunter, and complete a series of quest. It's also a PS4 exclusive. Any XBox One or PC players are out of luck. As someone who couldn't get the game until days after release (thanks Amazon) and has a full-time job, I am barely rank 2. Am I playing the game? Yes. Am I completing quests and enjoying the world? Sure. But there was no way I could reach rank 6 in such a short amount of time and expect to reap the benefits of this "limited time" event. A number of gamers couldn't. The restrictions were too high, the time too short, and availability too limited. With the second portion of the event, hopefully Capcom will extend the time-frame to at least make it accessible for longer then 2 weeks.

When you're a developer like SquareEnix or have MMO experience, you know that you have to provide sufficient time and make the content accessible to as many players as possible to ensure a successful campaign. World of Warcraft, Guild Wars 2 - you'll find that their seasonal events typically last 3-4 weeks, if not longer, and have very low level caps (1, 10, or 15 - all obtainable within 1-3 hours of gameplay).

When a person plays Monster Hunter: World, it can take anywhere from 2-5 hours to reach rank 2. It all depends on how you play with little hand-holding by the game on the fastest way to rank up. Math-ing it out at 5 hours per rank up and you need rank 6 to do the event: 30 hours of game play minimum before the event can be unlocked. I don't know about you, but I barely have 30 hours a week to sleep (assuming one sleeps for 8 hours a night), let alone play a video game. This event was never was going to be on my radar. And there is a concern that the follow-up will be just as short and/or tedious to unlock.

Overwatch can be just as bad about this, and they are unfortunately becoming more popular. Their event cycle for limit time skins is 2-3 weeks. Which doesn't seem bad, until you remember that it can take up to 45 minutes of gaming to achieve 1 loot box, which does not guarantee you any of the event items (icons, skins, sprays, or voice overs). You may get standard items, repeats, or in-game currency. It's all luck and that 45 minutes could end up costing you 45 hours to unlock everything. It's not feasible. Mobile games are equally as notorious for this, even providing count-down clocks to mock you every time you open the app.

The easiest solution is to take the MMO stance and have these events be more accessible. Locking them behind walls of content doesn't help you, the developer, promote your content. Nor does it please the gamer. I'm not against the cross-over events or limited time promotions. But make them available to the masses; not content-blocked to force people to play your game longer. People will be more willing to play when they can enjoy the game without feeling suckered into a grind session.

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