VIP system is a in game monetizable mechanic that is most commonly found in your hard core RPG games like Game of War or Mobile Strike. This system is merely an exploitable money sink designed to take an infinite amount of money for whoever is willing to spend this amount of money (This being the Whales). In 2014 this was a very effective design to create an endless money sink rather than a spending cap that your traditional Gacha and Premium games had to offer.
Like any other game, Freemium games are usually designed in one form or another a “Pay to Win” system. Whales find comfort in this system as they can simply out spend their rivals to claim top rank.
“Whales would rather play freemium games than Premium games as the spending differential can easily dictate the ranking levels”
In-game VIP system birth place was in China where the population currently sits at 1.35 Billion people which social structure is made up of predominantly lower class and upper class citizens. To generalize the upper class as whales were easily considered missed opportunity in revenue as upper class citizen in China loved to out class each other. This VIP system effectively segmented the upper class players from the rich to wealthy and effectively made it a power spending system that allowed the whales in the top echelon stroke their own ‘wealth’ ego.
In general Freemium games bode extremely well for the whales as they have the option to simply outspend their opponents. What the VIP system provided was a competitive dynamic for the whales to enjoy the game further.
Issues with VIP system
This has a negative effect to your average players as they these players look for a platform that maintains a competitive balance based on skill rather than spending power. Game designers do their best to effectively balance these 2 dynamics by using time as the element for VIP players to advance faster than players that don’t spend, but what inevitably happens is that players who don’t spend are required to play 3 – 4 times as much as higher VIP players to keep up with their game progression. The multiplier scales exponentially as the DPS creep scales on a % basis, causing the balance of power to scale towards the whales (heavy spenders)
The problem with the VIP system is that at the High Tier gaming experience, it really comes down to how one whale can outspend another whale to claim top rank / prize. And this game experience decrease the retention rate of the Mid Core (Dolphin) players and thus left with a bunch of casual players and hard core whales in the player pool.
Diminishing Return System
Star Wars: Galaxy of Heroes is one of the more popular games in the West that has a design system around the Heroes / shard collecting mechanic, but they do not have a VIP system in their game. Rather they’ve implemented a diminishing return system. For those that don’t understand what this is, a Diminishing Return system works as follows:
Let’s assume that you have a stage that can only be accessed twice a day.
VIP System: Based on your VIP level, you can access this level 2 + X times.
Note: This access refreshes on a 24 Hour basis
Diminishing Returns: Players have 2 free tickets to access this specific stage, if players want to access a third time, it’ll cost them:
3rd time: $5
4th time: $20
5th time: $50
6th time $100
This system allows everyone to be able to access the same amount as anyone regardless of their VIP level but the diminishing returns are based on paying more money to obtain the same reward.
Both systems are very effective tools to segment your whales, which is almost a imperative for games to even reach the top 20 in any Tier 1 Gaming Country. But based on the geographic it is very important that you choose a system that works best for your users and culture.
China has already embraced the VIP system as you see it in any service they provide in the country, but for America, this gap is something that people don’t appreciate which could lead to a negative experience. Thus Product Managers should take a hard look at their business model and choose wisely