Puzzle and Dragons – Macro Loop and Monetization

Puzzle & Dragons is a Japanese mobile game developed by GungHo Online Entertainment. I’ve sunk a few dozen hours into this game already, and have been tempted to spend money, but due to how much the monetization currency costs I decided against it. Aside from this one major flaw, the macro loop of the game is well designed for monetization and when this is written the game is the number #13 grossing game on Android and #23 in the Apple store.

The macro-loop of Puzzle and Dragons is a very “Pokemon-esque” gameplay loop where you expend Stamina to send a team of Monsters to complete Dungeons which give you Coins and Monsters. You can then increase the power of your team using those Coins and Monsters.

Macro Loop Graph

Stamina

Starting a Dungeon costs Stamina. It recharges gradually over time, but can be refilled instantly by using a Magic Egg. When at lower levels, you don’t have to worry much about Stamina, but that changes as you progress through the game:

  • The Stamina cost for Dungeons increases considerably, causing you to run out of Stamina more often.
  • The difficulty spikes become more severe, causing you to fail more Dungeons. Stamina is not refunded when you fail.
  • The maximum Stamina increases, but the recharge rate does not; so fully recharging your Stamina takes longer and longer.

All of these encourage you to use Magic Eggs to refill the Stamina.

Monsters

You have three ways of getting new Monsters:

  • Each Dungeon gives the player a random amount of the Monsters you fight there.
  • The player can purchase a random rare monster by using 5 Magic Eggs.
  • The player can purchase a random monster with special points which are gained through a combination of adding friends and logging in daily. (not pictured)

The Monsters have two purposes: You can send them into Dungeons to fight, or you can sacrifice them and “fuse” them with your favorite Monsters to make them more powerful. You can also sell them for Coins

As you progress the game will encourage you to keep an increasingly large team of Monsters on hand, but at the same time it limits the amount of Monsters you can keep at a time. The only way to increase the size of your “Monster Box” is to spend Magic Eggs.

Coins

Coins can only be gained by finishing Dungeons or selling Monsters and are not available for Magic Eggs.

Fusing Monsters costs Coins. At different points in the game you will get considerably more Monsters than Coins, or more Coins than Monsters. I suspect this is an intentional imbalance to get you to go back and “grind” older Dungeons instead of blazing ahead through their content.

Dungeons

The Dungeon is where the micro-loop takes place.

Each Dungeon is likely to drop certain types of Monsters, and a certain amount of Coins.

Dungeons will randomly have an increased Monster drop rate, increased Coin drop rate, or require less Stamina to play. This normally only lasts a few hours at a time before it switches to another Dungeon, but most of the time at least one Dungeon will have each of these bonuses. This further encourages people to grind through the old Dungeons.

In addition there are special Dungeons, all temporary and on different time-scales, that take the game mechanics to their extremes. Some will be much longer than the normal Dungeons, some change the parameters of the Micro-Loop, some require a specific type of team, etc. This is where the team seems to go nuts and let their creativity loose. These are a great break from the normal Dungeons, but require much more Stamina to play.

If you die at any point in a Dungeon, you can use a Magic Egg to continue instead of failing it.

Magic Eggs

Magic Eggs can be acquired in three ways:

  • By finishing a Dungeon for the first time you get 1 Magic Egg
  • By logging in daily you get 3 Magic Eggs every 5 days
  • By purchasing them for real dollars you get from 1 Magic Egg for $0.99 to 85 Magic Eggs for $59.99

You can use them in a number of ways:

  • 1 Magic Egg can restore your Stamina
  • 1 Magic Egg increases the size of your Monster Box by 5
  • 1 Magic Egg lets you continue a Dungeon after dying
  • 5 Magic Eggs give you a random rare Monster

First after you start the game the Dungeons are cleared quickly and you are given a lot of Magic Eggs. But as you start spending more time grinding old Dungeons, you get Magic Eggs at a slower and slower rate. Eventually you are mostly getting them from the login bonus and that won’t be enough to sustain comfortable gameplay, which encourages you to buy them.

But they are expensive. Each egg costs from $0.70-$0.99, depending on how many you buy at a time. This means that using Magic Eggs to get a random rare Monster will cost you at least $3.5, and everything else you can do with them costs you at least $0.70.

I wanted to spend money on this game, but when I saw the price point I changed my mind. I would happily spend a lot of money on it if each Magic Egg was around $0.25, but at this price it’s not worth it to me.

That’s it for the macro loop but if you want to see what the moment to moment gameplay is like, take a look at the Action Loop.


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