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Better freemium design | Motor World: Car Factory

By on April 23, 2013
motor world
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This is a guest post from consultant Ben Sipe crossposted from his blog


As a Game & Monetization Consultant I’m constantly playing mobile games. I tried to play every game that popped up into the Top 100 free and grossing charts, but I’ve been really struggling to do that on top of all my other responsibilities. Also as I was doing this, I started seeing similarities between games so I’ve decided to play only one game of a particular idea. One of the more recent and obvious ones is all the “4 pics 1 word” games. I certainly don’t need to play more than one of those types of games unless I’m doing a personal study on them like slot and trading card games last year.

Early March I came across a game called Motor World: Car Factory. From the screenshots and description I thought I’d give it a try, and I think you should too!

What it did right

Art & Sounds

I know this is subjective, but if you like pixel/8-bit art then you’ll love the art in this game. This is obvious if you’d seen pictures of the game. The game also uses iconic video game sound effects which can be appreciated by almost all players

Collection mechanic

I love collection mechanics in games! At the time of writing this, the game has 92 different cars and I’ve collected 84 of them. On the collection screen the developer uses the tagline “gotta build’em all.” Being a Pokémon fan, I enjoyed this play off “gotta catch’em all.” (Pokémon being another game that I would obsess over collecting all the different monsters)

Sales/Promotions

The game does a great job of promoting IAPs with discounts/more currency per price point. They got me with the beginners pack for $1.99. I blew through the premium currency (upgrading workers to engineers) and mystery cards within minutes.

Upselling IAPs

Click on something that costs more premium currency than you have and see what happens. They bring up a new lower $2.99 price point. $2.99 is easier to spend than the minimum $4.99 IAP price point. They got me with this one as well because I wanted to upgrade the rest of my workers but didn’t need as much currency that the $5 or $10 IAP gave… or so I thought.

Varying gameplay mechanics

I really like the addition of the CSR style racing in additional to building and collecting cars. I also like catching spies and trying to get the little leprechaun guy on the motorcycle. These little additions help make it feel like there’s something to do while you wait for your workers to hammer on a new car.

Offline gaming

I travel for work and don’t always have the ability to play online, but I do play online most of the time. If online connectivity isn’t absolutely required for the gameplay then there’s not much reason why you can’t enable players to play offline.

Discourage cheating

Ok so I don’t usually call it cheating. I normally say it’s a clever use of in game mechanics. 😉 Anyways, if a game can be played offline, players can normally move the local time on the device forward to reduce long wait times. However, when you do this in MWCF the developer has some timestamp check and displays the below message. Players lose all their current doughnuts, and in my case, added 50-some hours on all of my cars and shops. I wasn’t mad about it. I actually thought it was funny.

What could be improved

Name

This is completely subjective, but I think the name could’ve been something easier to remember. I’ve got the name down now because I’ve been talking about it for the past month, but I could never remember the name the first week or two. I would tell people to play some Car World/Car Factory/Motor Car game. Why couldn’t it just be Motor World or Car Factory? Something shorter?

On the other hand Motor World might be part of a long term strategy and the developer is planning out several games under this overarching name. (e.g. Motor World: Drag Race or Motor World: Car Battles)

Missions

I really like to questing and missions in games. It gives the player some kind of motivation to keep playing. MWCF has missions and they’re grouped in sets of three, but I only completed 4 or 5 sets of missions before they greatly increased in difficulty or time needed in order to complete the missions. I think these should’ve been less difficult to accomplish to give players a sense of accomplishment while they waited worked on shops/cars with really long build times.

I also wouldn’t mind racing more often, but what if I don’t have friends to race with? I’m not about to spam all my friends to play a game to experience this, when I could race the AI in missions.

UI when building

Perhaps this was intentional (to make users hit the speed up button), but the speed up button and arrow to add more users are on top of each other. I don’t think you actually need to click the arrow to add more workers, but its common player behavior to tap the arrow and if I click on the car half of the time it opens a menu for that worker. Obviously this hasn’t stopped me from playing but I do get annoyed that it’s this difficult to do a simple task of adding more workers. Couldn’t they be off centered? Maybe that drives UX designers nuts? Maybe this was tested and it looked bad or didn’t work with multiple cars in the production line. I know it’s minor but I’m probably not the only one.

Longevity… a little lite on cars

Technically perhaps the missions are endless, but there’s a definite end to the content/cars and it’s maybe a little lite in my opinion. I’m working on a couple more cars, but then I’ll be done. I won’t invite enough players to get that car, I already purchased over 20 mystery cards and only got 1 car so I won’t get the rest of the mystery card cars and I can’t breed any more cards to get new plans. I understand it’s easy for me to criticize the amount of cars from the outside because this could’ve been a large undertaking for the developer, but in an ideal world you’ll have maybe 92 cars at launch and then 1 month later release an update with maybe another 30 cars to let players know that you’re updating and frequently. It doesn’t matter how frequent, but giving the perception of content updates is arguably more important than actually following through.

I’ve had a good run with MWCF at 1 month and spending $15, but I’m getting close to churning.

Not compelled to spend $100

It’s not evil to make F2P games that people want to spend money on like some think. I’m paying for entertainment and happy to do so. Don’t confuse this with preying on “whales” to make a living. I’ve spent $15 and would do it again. However, I’ve reached the point where I won’t spend anymore. I think what is lacking is something with incredible value that’s incredibly expensive or difficult to obtain. I could spend $100 and buy one of the ‘elite workers’ but I don’t really need it against a group of engineers. I could also buy more mystery cards but I’m sick of getting cards with less than 1,000 coins or experience. 70+% of cards have been a rip off since they didn’t grant awards that were at my level (50+). If the experience or coins were worth a value that was at my level then maybe it wouldn’t feel like such a rip off for spending hard currency.

All-in-all I think the game is great, and would certainly tell the developer the same. The pros certainly outweigh the cons, and some of the constructive feedback is minor or subjective so I couldn’t say with 100% certainty that improving these areas would lead to positive changing in metrics. A/B testing would tell if they’re good suggestions or not. I just felt compelled to write observations with the game because I spent a good deal if time playing it.

If you’d like to talk about this or any other games you can find me here at my blog or on Twitter.

About Ben Sipe

Ben is a seasoned game producer/designer who has collaborated on hundreds of mobile, console and PC titles spanning all genres.
  • Daniel Bouziri

    I am also some kind (or was) addicted to this game. Yeah, I love the retro sound, the animation and graphics. I also like building and selling cars. But I can’t absolutely not agree with you to the payment model:

    This is a sort if game that maybee cost 100.000,00€ in development. That for and if you imagine how small that game is in content, I don’t think it’s okay to make some events and cars so hard to achieve that you could spend more than 50€ for it. But if you want to build me all, you’ll have to invest tons of money!!!! This is disgusting, even more when you followed the game and see that they did not even improve UI and/or removed the exp bug (wrong number @lv 89 until 85 m exp)!

    No, this should be forbidden and capped, they should say that you can play the whole game with a max amount of € 30 invested. Thus is just greed to fuck up people. Nono

  • Thanks for sharing this Ben, found it a really interesting read. I especially found the part about dynamic/adaptive pricing based on the player behaviour useful I.e. dropping price to the amount the user needs to buy a certain object.

  • Ben Sipe

    I constantly fight developers on this subject, and most times it’s a hard argument to make. Metrically speaking, retention will show you if something like this impacts player behavior and revenue shows the impact. Most times UI tricks will increase revenues more than it’ll decrease retention and for most developers they need/want that increase in revenues.

    It’s hard for an outsider like me to tell them otherwise since I’m not managing their budget, but I agree that some of these tricks can be unethical (like the children’s game you mention).

    I don’t think MWCF’s UI was intentional, but I certainly don’t know for sure. I think offsetting the arrows just didn’t look as nice, but there are definitely games out there that try to capitalize on player error. At least the developer gives you a confirmation screen to use your premium currency versus just making you spend it which is why I don’t think this is unethical… just sometimes a nuisance. 🙂

  • Sik

    The UI issue you mention reminds me of some game I played at EVA 2012. The game itself was keyboard only, but when you finished a level a menu would pop-up in the middle of the screen that could only be controlled with the mouse (what?). The menu contained two options: “next level” and “more games”. When I asked why I couldn’t use the keyboard in the menu they said it was so players would be prone to misclicking “more games” which would give them more money (WHAT?). Worst part is that in this case we were talking about a game meant for kids.

    I don’t know what Motor World does here but making the user prone to making mistakes is very annoying and maybe even outright insulting.