First Iteration: Economy

I want to set one expectation loud and clear right now: We’re talking about details of the economy here, and everything about the economy can, and will, change as we refine and develop the game. Don’t be surprised when you see different pack prices, play formats, and trading systems from what we talk about now – it’s unlikely we’ll get this perfect the first time.

We’ll be taking a data-driven approach to the economy, releasing systems and then watching how they perform in real life. We’ll adjust any area that doesn’t meet our goals until it does.

Economic Goals

Before we get into any details, then, let’s zoom all the way out and talk about our goals for the economy.

Goal #1 is to take a long-term view – we’re willing to give up short-term returns in order to build a long-term relationship with you. This long-term view drives how we design our economy – it leads us away from running quick sales, and more towards systems and promotions that grow the game for long-term success (when we say long term, we’re looking 3-5 years into the future).

Goal #2 is to charge reasonable prices for things people want. We can break this down pretty simply into three areas: Cards (packs and single cards). Customizability (card backs, avatars, playmats, deck slots). Events (drafts, tournaments, special events).

Goal #3 is to not put artificial barriers in the way of play. This sounds simple and obvious, yet many games instead focus their monetization on these kind of barriers, as a psychological ploy to encourage people to spend money. We aren’t doing this in Nova Blitz.

Goal #4 is to make money. We’re a business; we need to make money in order to be sustainable. This is fourth, and last, on our list because if we follow the other three goals, we’ll have happy players, and everything else will come naturally.

Example – Draft Pricing

We can illustrate how we’re designing the economy based on those goals with a simple-looking problem: How much should we charge for a draft? Balancing all the competing constraints here is part art, part science, and part magic. We’ll walk through the design process, starting with (some of) the draft design principles:

  1. A low entry fee is desirable, as this encourages more play.
  2. The better the prizes, the more people will play.
  3. We want players to keep the cards they draft – this encourages deck building.
  4. The lower the effective pack price, the lower the value of cards. This is good, in that it encourages constructed play, but also bad, as it makes packs less valuable.

Effective pack price is an important concept – it tells us how much card packs really cost. The effective pack price is the cost of the draft divided by the average number of packs that are opened in the draft and awarded as prizes. An event that costs $10 and delivers 6 packs has an effective pack price of $1.67.

We want effective pack price for drafts to be lower than the pack price that appears in the store, so playing in drafts is a good deal. This means that, with an effective pack price of $1.67, the packs must cost at least $1.67 in the store to make draft a viable method of opening packs. That’s a totally reasonable cost per pack, so we would be fine. However, $10 is too expensive for our drafts – we want to deliver a cheaper, more accessible, price point.

Since we’re letting people keep the cards they draft, that’s three packs of cards to start with. On top of that, we want to give away prizes. Most games give about 1.5 packs per player in prizes. That’s the minimum. We can do better than that, and one of the prize structures that really appeals to us is to pay out 1 pack for every game won. On average, that works out as giving away 3 packs in prizes per player, with some players winning more, and some winning less.

Draft Price Point

In total, we’re giving away 6 packs per draft (3 that you open, and 3 that you can win). We want to set the draft entry fee as low as possible. $3 would be ideal, $5 is reasonable; $7 might still be ok, and $10 is too high. Looking at our potential price points, $3 for 6 packs gives an effective pack price of $0.50. That’s lower than we’d want – it’ll make cards feel too cheap. That leaves us with $5 and $7 as options. Since $5 feels possible, let’s examine it first.

A $5 entry fee, drafting 3 packs, and giving away 3 packs in prizes is an effective pack price of $0.83. That’s lower than comparable pack prices – looking at other games, the common price points are $4 (for Magic Online), and $2 (for several games), and $1.50 (for Hearthstone). This feels right in line with those games; we’re going for broad reach and accessibility, so an effective price of $0.83 is reasonable.

So far, it looks like a $5 entry fee, drafting 3 packs, and winning (on average) 3 packs is the way forward.

Knock-on Effects

Deciding on a $0.83 effective pack price in draft shapes many other parts of the economy, too. We know we want the pack price in the store to be higher than the one in drafts. So, we’d set pack prices in the store at $1.25 or so, with some discounts for buying higher quantities, likely down to a little under $1 at the cheapest.

And, knowing that we want to have a draft that includes only 3 packs, we know that we either need to increase our pack size from 12 to 15, or decrease our draft deck size from 40 to 30. Both are possible. Decreasing the draft deck size is more likely, as it puts the cost per card closer to $0.10. We’ll definitely have to do some testing to figure out which option works the best.

More to Come

That got way deeper than I was expecting, so we’re out of room for now. There’s lots more on the economy that we’ll talk about later – tournaments, trading, pricing in the store, daily rewards, pack composition – and way more than could ever fit in a single blog post. What areas are you most interested in hearing about? Let us know on the forums!