Bulk Savings on iOS Game Currencies

I was doing some Monday Night Data Analysis (you know how it is) and I got to thinking about the microtransaction models in mobile games. When deciding on the values of Keys To The City in Fire & Dice, I just kind of stuck my finger in the air and let some math cushion my fall. Here’s what we ended up with:

7 Keys, $1, 14.3c/key,
50 Keys, $5, 10c/key,
250 Keys, $20, 8c/key,
1,000 Keys, $50, 5c/key.

That makes sense according to the Greater McNugget Law of Economics which has something to do with decreasing marginal utility and states that a 20-piece Chicken McNuggets should cost less than buying 5 4-piece Chicken McNuggets separately. Otherwise, McNugget arbitrage would throw commodity futures into chaos. Or something.

So we know that the cost per unit of MTX currency should go down (or stay steady) as the amount spent goes up. If I buy 1,000 Farmville Bux at a clip, it should cost me less than buying 100 Farmville Bux ten times. But how much should it go down per dollar? How much cheaper should it be?

I did this incredibly unscientific study* of looking at the price points of divisible currencies in 13 of the games on my phone. I fired up the spreadsheet machine and standardized the units, then I divided the standardized units by the price point. I expected to get some revelatory curve that would distill the hive brain of Zynga-Playfish-Playdom-EvilCo’s money extraction algorithms. Here’s what I got instead:

A currency that provides no “bulk savings” would be just a flat line across at 1 because at any price point you would always be getting the same unit cost. The higher the curve goes up, the greater the “bulk discount” is for users. If there was an easy secondary MTX currency market, you would see all of these pressed flatter and flatter because arbitrageurs could just buy huge bundles of MTX currency and dole it out at cheaper than the supplier’s $1 level.

Here’s a zoom-in of the 1 to 2 range:

The sample of thirteen games available to me at the time that had easily divisible amounts provided quite a variety of suggestions.

  • First, Danc is a saint because Triple Town‘s $5 currency bundle is either the most wonderful affordable currency bundle out right now or the $1, $2 and $3 bundles are vastly overpriced. The $5 bundle in Triple Town gives 25x the number of coins of the $1 bundle for 5x the cost. No one else does that. Why not? Are we afraid of over-saturating our whales? Give the people that buy the biggest bundle as much as they could possibly ever use. user.giveTokens(MAXINT);
  • Every single game I looked at had a $5 bundle, but not every game had a $1 bundle.
  • Someone at Ludia can’t do basic math because their $40 bundle on Family Feud & Friends provides more bang for buck than their $100 bundle.
  • Who buys $100 bundles? Why aren’t they buying the $50 Fire & Dice bundle? Do we devs just put those out there to see if people will hit the button by accident like the I Am Rich app?
  • Newtoy’s (er, Zynga with Friends’) games have the flattest curves. They really don’t offer much in the way of bulk savings.
  • Ignore the weird curve thing going on with the Zynga Poker line from $3-$5 and the Triple Town line from $2 to $3. Google Doc’s curve smoothing wasn’t up to the task.
  • While there seems to be similarity in the <$5 range (if you average the curves, you get about what we did for Fire & Dice!), once we crack $20 we get into crazy bux funtown. The curves diverge quite a bit. I think everyone can agree on 10%-50% bumps in the $1-$5 range, but the parabola gets so stupid when you get into $100 games that I guess you just pick a large number and throw it at the user.
Make your own conclusions, though. It could all just be noise.

*And lazy. I didn’t even out the space between x-axis points.

2 Comments

  1. Re: $100 point bundles

    They are there to help sell the cheaper ones. I forgot where I read about those studies (maybe “Stumbling on Happiness”?)

  2. Yes, framing effects.

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