Puzzle and Dragons is one of the most successful mobile games of all time while also being Free to Play (F2P also known as Freemium). Despite the attraction of not having to spend real life money (IAP), GungHo is still a business where the goal is to be profitable.
As with any Freemium game, there is the option to purchase in game premium currency to accelerate your progress. Generally speaking, being able to buy your way to victory is unhealthy, but thankfully PAD is a solo progression game where your own success does not have any negative effect on other players.
Up until a few months ago, Puzzle and Dragons has had essentially no special IAP bundles with the exception of a mediocre one where the extra prize was random and mostly lackluster. As such, with the introduction of guaranteed Collab 6-star and now Lucky Bag Special Bargains, spending some real life money is more attractive overall.
As a disclaimer, I live in Canada which inflates my IAP prices along with only spending money if given gifts due to being on disability from a serious back/neck injury in 2014. Furthermore, I receive no financial or in-game support from GungHo so my opinions are my own.
–video coming soon–
Freemium Gatcha games
The concept of a Freemium Gatcha game has become somewhat of an industry standard in terms of profitability and accessibility for users. We live in a world where the concept of having to pay for an app scares people so everything has to be free regardless of the quality. On the other hand companies need to make money on a continuous basis so they regularly release new characters that are primarily acquired through gambling/random chance.
This uncertainty in acquiring new characters paired with a steady stream of Powercreep (gradual increase in power of newly released cards) helps ensure there is always a need to spend money. As such, these types of games never have an effective end and will continue to release content as long as players spend money.
Furthermore, most games include special one-time purchase bundles that can greatly accelerate personal progression that are often well priced to encourage some spending.
Initial PAD hype
Upon release, Puzzle and Dragons broke the mold for mobile games and quickly shot up to number one as it provided a new platform for gaming. This popularity also generated an outrageously large amount of money and players were buying Magic Stones regardless bundles being available.
This was somewhat their own undoing as GungHo relaxed and coasted on their initial success. Furthermore, they kept their price model for years despite poor performance after the initial blitz.
They could have easily retained spending from the more casual player by periodically releasing meaningful $10 bundles that target the more casual/low spending player.
Now don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with spending money on video games as it is a form of entertainment and technically all forms of entertainment are “wasteful.” For example, going out to a dinner and movie with friends can easily cost $30 and more if alcohol is involved. You still had a good time but there is nothing to show for it outside of memories and photographs. On the other hand, spending money on video games results in continuous entertainment that easily exceeds a single night. Thus, from my own perspective, video games (and board games) are the best kind of investment for entertainment as they result in far more hours of enjoyment.
As such, there should not be any stigma for spending money on video games provided it is within your budget.
Is it worth buying the special bundles?
From a Canadian point of view, Magic Stones are 1:1 to real life currency (when looking at the top 85 Stone Pack). As such, anything that provides more relative value is worthwhile if one is wanting to IAP.
The main idea of special bundles is that they give an equivalent (or nearly equivalent) number of Magic Stones plus extra goodies. These extra goodies can include REM cards or in game items but the main appeal is additional REM cards.
Thus far we have seen guaranteed 6-star cards from Collab (with 6* being the highest rarity) and now a Great Witches and new 7* GFE pack. All of these will cost slightly more than compared to a 1:1 Magic Stone to real life currency but giving a guaranteed rare card makes these infinitely more valuable with any other benefits being icing on the cake.
As such, if one is tempted to IAP, it is well worth purchasing these special bundles as you gain far more value for your money. Furthermore, many of these bundles are gently priced in such a way that most players could afford them. Creating a $100 bundle will do little good as I feel the goal of these is to tap into new players/those who rarely spend and $10-20 is much more manageable.
Impact on the game
Due to the fact that PAD is a solo progression game, there is no harm from these bundles being available and in fact, actually help the game overall.
This is because GungHo needs to make money and if these bundles are continuously purchased, they will have a new income stream along with being more motivated to keep producing content.
Just remember, purchasing these bundles is completely optional.
PAD is making a comeback
Puzzle and Dragons was at one point the most dominating game on the market but they have lost their number one spot for a prolonged period of time. From my own perspective on website traffic, this lull began in late 2017 and lasted for about a year.
There are many contributing factors but I strongly believed it was tied to a lack of new/playable content being released combined with low rolling rates and stingy log in bonuses compared to other mobile games.
Thankfully, GungHo is now putting the pedal to the metal in terms of new content being released (New Arenas + Special Challenges) along with exceptionally generous log in bonuses.
Granted my website is not a perfect measurement for the game’s player base, but seeing nearly double the monthly views in January 2019 compared to January 2018 is reassuring. Furthermore, some of my friends who live in Japan have now started to see advertisements for Puzzle and Dragons on a more frequent basis. That indicates that GungHo is starting to put more resources into the game and is not the behavior of a failing game.
This article is not an advertisement for the Special Bundles within Puzzle and Dragons and is more so providing the rationale for why they exist and how they are superior to regular IAP.
By giving players the opportunity to purchase something of value helps retain users while also giving the funding to produce more content.
The past few months have seen a tremendous increase in generosity from GungHo along with additional content being released which are all characteristics of a healthy game.
Overall, the special IAP bundles are good for the game as PAD is a solo progression adventure where the progress/success of other players does not hamper your ability to advance and play.
Let me know what you think about the inclusion of special IAP bundles regardless if you actually purchase them.
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