Lure of The Dark Below

Lure of The Dark Below

As you read this column, millions of gamers around the world are probably getting their heart rates worked up playing The Dark Below.

This is the first expansion of the wildly popular video game, Destiny.

I know many of my gaming companions will be among those gunning to be the first to get their hands on the new weapons cache in the expansion, which went live yesterday afternoon.

I would have buried myself in the game too, were it not for the fact that today is my wedding anniversary.

Yes, even a hardcore gamer needs to know when to say no. Besides, my wife would not take kindly to me dozing off during tonight's romantic dinner, when we would typically reminisce about our past and debate the future of our kids in an increasingly stressful society.

However, the point of this column is about Destiny the game, not the road ahead for my kids.

The first-person shooter created by the makers of Halo has been a runaway success, outdoing many games with superior storylines and far better reviews.

According to Destiny's publisher Activision, there are 9.5 million registered Destiny users, putting the shooter almost in the same league as the highly successful World Of Warcraft game, which exceeded 12 million players at its peak a few years ago. This is no mean feat, given that the game was launched only in September.

In October, Activision said an average of 3.2 million gamers worldwide play Destiny every day. The game publisher has been betting big on this game, investing US$500 million (S$661 million) in the franchise.

It plans to continue running with this game into the next decade.

When it was launched, Destiny was panned. Many reviewers complained about the weak plot and many gamers struggled with the monotony.

However, those who kept at it, like me, see the light. Even though I have destroyed the same villains hundreds of times, I never get bored with making kills.

The reason is because of the marvellous loot system which the game has. It keeps gamers coming back for more.

The loot system taps on the gamer's unquenchable thirst to improve his characters.

You need better armour to level up your character and you need to be at a higher level to be able to participate in high-end missions (which offers the best loot).

The game rewards persistence. Gamers need to keep grinding to get to the best guns. The Patience And Time sniper rifle makes your character invisible. The Truth is an idiot-proof rocket launcher with homing missiles which devastates. The Ice Breaker, my favourite, is a sniper rifle which never runs out of ammunition.

Limiting the biggest rewards to weekly missions means most players need to spend only a few hours a day on the game to reap the rewards, which is an intelligent way to lengthen the life of the game.

Destiny's many creative ways of keeping gamers hooked is not only a good lesson for other game developers, but it is also one which other companies should take a leaf from.

Take taxi apps, for example. There is essentially no customer loyalty to any of the apps now.

So, how about offering discounts, lucky draws and other carrots so commuters will stick with them? Uber gives a $10 sign-up rebate if you are invited by another Uber user. It is a good start, but more can be done to reward users who stick to a company.

Back to The Dark Below. I envy you gamers out there who are already suiting up for battle in its virtual universe. However, love comes first for me today. Tomorrow, well, that's a different story.

ginlee@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on Dec 10, 2014.
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