Coin Master, a free and simplistic arcade game that incorporates gambling elements and in-game interactions with friends, is gaining rapid popularity among youngsters in Hong Kong recently.
In Hong Kong Google Play Store, the game had a sharp increase in ranking in the Top Free Games category from 523rd on November 6, 2020 to maintaining Top 5 since December 22, 2020 till the time of writing, according to SensorTower. Similar findings can be observed in the Hong Kong App Store as well.
One of Coin Master’s advertisements went viral in Hong Kong for its comedic and peculiar nature, especially after being verbally translated into Mandarin. The advertisement featured Jennifer Lopez looking for Shirley, a cashier at a supermarket, because Shirley had attacked her village on Coin Master.
The phrase “哇！珍妮佛羅培茲！” (Wow! Jennifer Lopez!) in the advertisement became catchy and iconic. Marcus Lam Cheuk-yin, a 20-year-old Year 3 student at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, said that he started playing Coin Master after he came across the advertisement.
Released in February 2016, Coin Master has accumulated more than a hundred million players around the world according to SensorTower. Just in December 2020, the net revenue for the game in that month was up to US$8 million. The game mechanism of Coin Master is mainly driven by a slot machine [with an amplified probability to be rewarded] – players can obtain coins directly from the slot machine, or attack, or mine from Facebook friends’ or random strangers’ villages.
The money earned (or looted) can be used to upgrade constructions in a player’s village. And once you finish your upgrades, you’ll level up and move on to the next village.
Coin Master’s mode of gameplay is exceptionally different from other popular and well-known first-person shooter or action games like PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG) – but that may well be it’s success formula. The game’s simplistic and interactive design, as well as utilization of psychological lures in casino games can easily turn players into gambling addicts. Developing an awareness of these tricks may help you to not fall into the rabbit hole.
And here are the 5 elements of the game that can explain why you’re still (or will be) addicted to Coin Master:
1. Slot Machine
When we are rewarded for our behaviors, which in this case players are rewarded in virtual cash for pressing the “Spin” button, we tend to repeat such behaviors. This is also known as positive reinforcement. What makes the slot machine so addictive, however, is that you will never know how much you will be rewarded and when you will be rewarded (variable-ratio reinforcement).
Imagine this: If you know exactly when and what you will get, you will eventually be used to it and get bored of it (habituation). Hence the unexpectedness of the outcome is what makes you want to continue playing.
2. Spins are Time-dependent
In every hour, players will be given five spins, and can only accumulate at most 50 spins. Unlike other games that require players to dedicate a certain amount of time to play (for instance, a typical PUBG game would last for around 15-20 minutes) and would penalize players for leaving in the middle of the game, you can play and stop playing Coin Master anytime, anywhere.
Combining a fixed-interval reinforcement (the reward is given at a specific time interval) and a highly controllable gameplay time, these conditions serve as incentives for players to check their phones once in a while to see whether there are remaining spins and use them up.
3. Increasing Bet Size
While rolling the slot machine once would typically only consume 1 Spin, players can also choose to increase their bet size, which at the same time would proportionally increase their rewards (i.e., if a player decides to increase their bet, the amount of coins earned would be doubled). Sometimes you can even increase your bet size up to 10 times or even 20 times.
On one hand, increasing the bet size allows players to consume Spins at their own pace, and on the other hand, it also amplifies both the exciting part and the devastating part of the game. The greater the bet, the greater the chance that you are going to be emotionally invested.
4. Attacking and Raiding Friends (and to be attacked!)
Not only are there benefits for inviting friends to play the game (you can give each other spins and coins on a daily basis), you can also choose to attack your friend’s village. Cherry Wen-laam, a Year 1 student at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University, said that “being able to raid your friends’ villages and being raided by them is what makes Coin Master fun and interesting.”
It is perhaps “fun and interesting” as it relates to the prospect theory. The prospect theory states that humans tend to have an optimistic view of the future – in this case, players would generally expect themselves to be able to upgrade their constructions in their village.
Except the odds may not always be in your favor.
Players’ friends and other strangers would be able to damage and downgrade players’ constructions. And when this happens, it breaks their expectations in having “secured” their progress in upgrading constructions. The feelings of disappointment are similar to unexpectedly losing the money you’ve just earned in a casino.
5. Limited Time Offers and Events
Apart from the main storyline where players have to earn coins in order to build constructions in their village, there are also limited time events in order to gain extra rewards. For instance, players may have to roll birthday hats or cakes that would only appear for several days. These limited time events can assist players a lot in their main storyline, and make players feel less desperate. Constant feelings of accomplishment are also important to motivate players in order to keep them playing.
Should I make In-App Purchases?
Johnathan Chan Nok-kin, a 13-year-old Form 1 student in Hong Kong, reported that some of his friends had paid money for in-app features. These in-app purchases are mainly gift packs that include spins and coins at an exceptionally lower price compared to the regular price. While Chan’s friends have spent an average of HK$70 on these in-app purchases, Chan said that they were less likely to persist in playing the game later on.
This can be explained by a disruption in the reinforcement patterns – as players can obtain resources (coins and spins) by in-app purchases, the resources become much more easily accessible and less valuable than it was originally.
While it is true that Coin Master utilizes a great deal of psychological tricks and strategies that are commonly found in gambling, the game successfully engages youngsters and might not fade away easily.