Economics & Rewards in EXODE and Splinterlands

in Splinterlands9 months ago (edited)
EXODE and Splinterlands are both digital collectible card games built upon the Hive Blockchain. I'm pretty thoroughly addicted to both. Other than that, they are nearly as different as they can be.

GenreSpace ColonizationFantasy Battle Arena
Primarily PvPNoYes
BotsNoSubstantial % of players
Length of GameMonths<5 minutes
Pay for Best PlayNoYes
$$$ Requirement$10-$20$1000s
RewardsCards, Experience Points,
New Discoveries & New Inventions
Cards, Potions & DEC
Reward MechanismMission/Quest/Epic QuestLine Rewards;
Research, Discovery & Crafting Rewards;
Weekly Rewards; Season Rewards;
Legacy/Post-Game Rewards; and
Contest & Tournament Rewards
Game-Winner Rewards;
Daily Quest Rewards; and
Tournament Rewards
Pay For Best RewardsNoYes

I thought that I was going to write a post comparing and contrasting the reward types and reward opportunities of EXODE and Splinterands. However, given the current going-ons in Splinterlands, it rapidly turned into a game economics post with a particular emphasis on how rewards can make or break a game. I'll write that original post shortly, but this is a necessary introduction -- and continues and expands upon the points I made in Why Collection Power is ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY for Splinterlands.

People who buy into blockchain games are looking for two things: game-play and an investment. Unfortunately, unless the game design carefully avoids it, the investment aspect can turn into a "Tragedy of the Commons" that destroys game-play (and thus eventually leads to the cratering of the investment). Indeed, a nearly perfect example of this is the pillaging bot flood that Splinterlands is currently attempting to extricate itself from via the addition of restrictions based upon the value of a player's collection.

A well-designed and maintained economic plan is critical for the survival of any online game. The game has to be able to pay for the technological infrastructure and people who support the game. Additional money (or assets) are required if the game also commits to pay out real assets for player rewards -- particularly if there are no in-game "sinks" for such assets.

The fact that DEC rewards are a cryptocurrency newly generated out of thin air and eventually redeemable for fiat (even if via a multi-step process like DEC to Hive to a crypto-exchange for fiat) puts the game right on the ragged edge of what the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) will accept. The ONLY way in which this is ever acceptable is if the cryptocurrency is always redeemable at a set price -- which theoretically DEC is, as it is always redeemable for a fixed number of packs. Extant DEC must also be showing up on the company's balance sheet as a standard liability (effectively, a purchaser loan) if the company wishes to stay out of trouble. The periods between editions could raise serious questions as could all times where the extant amount of DEC is greater than the value of remaining/unsold packs (since the cryptocurrency always needs to be redeemable).

A second absolutely critical point is that game resources in general need to be balanced with the current size of the market. If a game is selling packs of cards to survive and the value of the contents of those packs falls below the pack price, there are unlikely to be many pack sales until the value of a pack rises to or above its price. Fortunately, for Splinterlands, this fix has been happening due to the dramatic decrease in the value of DEC that the pack price is denominated in -- but this also then means that the game is getting far less revenue per pack.

If all this is in place and the game is giving out rewards in that cryptocurrency, you've got the makings of a nasty death spiral. And, if you want a really perfect storm of destruction, the game should keep giving out the same dollar value of rewards by giving out ever-increasing amounts of the in-game currency, thus flooding the market and continuing to reduce the value even further. There are very few ways to correct such an error except by selling massive quantities of new products (dice, land, etc.) in order to take the cryptocurrency out of circulation and thereby raise its value. The problem then, however, is that the game cannot cash out the received cryptocurrency or else it will end up right back in the same situation.

But, let's assume that the game company has released a bunch of new resources, burned the cryptocurrency used to buy it, successfully brought the price back up and has survived the process of doing so. The next problem, depending upon the game, is that the price to be competitive in the game has dramatically increased. This makes it increasingly tougher to bring new players into the game. Further, unless rewards are again increased (with all the problems that will bring), existing players will have no choice (short of abandoning the game) but to pay to keep up -- even though percentage of their larger investment regained from rewards has significantly gone down.

So what are the solutions to all this? One solution is not to create a pay-to-play economy (as EXODE has done). Obviously, however, Splinterlands is long past this point. The next partial solution is to stop giving out cryptocurrency as a reward. If this is done, and a decent amount of DEC used to purchase dice and land is burned, the value of DEC will recover nicely.

The most effective way to bring card values up (and make both players and investors happy) is to increase their variety and make individual cards scarcer in the market (simple supply and demand). One of Splinterlands biggest shortcomings is that, other than burning cards to combine and level-up, there are no in-game "sinks" for assets. It would create a lot more variety and burn a huge number of cards if the game allowed Splinterlands Enhancements III: Hybrids.


Of course, if cards are more valuable, then it is even more critical to ameliorate the huge pay-to-play barriers that new entrants face. Magic: The Gathering introduced the concept of rotating sets out to older formats to solve exactly this problem (and the problem of overly powerful cards in the initial releases). Having Untamed-only tournaments starts in this direction but it really needs to be extended to Ranked play as well. I've also suggested other tried-and-true solutions from MtG like Splinterlands Enhancements I: Booster Draft.

Exode doesn't have barrier-to-entry problems because you don't need to own virtually all the cards at maximum level to be "competitive". You do need certain cards to have certain experiences, but you can get pretty much the entire complexity of EXODE with a single $10 starter pack -- as opposed to Splinterlands where many abilities don't appear until the highest levels (also thus "dumbing-down" lower-level play). I've suggested methods where SL players can get abilities earlier and burn more cards in the marketplace without harming game balance via Splinterlands Enhancements IV: Lower-Level Play I: Forced Growth.

I could go on and on but this is already too long for something that was supposed to be another post entirely. EXODE has, however, opened my eyes to how radically different collectible card game economics can be -- and encouraged me that Splinterlands can be fixed if the team starts thinking outside the box that they are trapped in (and stops playing whack-a-mole with collection power and rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic with infinite tournament updates). I'll go into more detail about EXODE in my post comparing EXODE and SL rewards, but in the meantime . . . .

Special Offer: Double your money back if you try eXode and don't like it.

First, to learn more about the awesomeness that is EXODE, check out the short (five minute) introductory video and the wiki. There is also the EXODE Pilots Hive community (which has a bunch of terrific videos as well as many posts entering and detailing the results of recent contests) and a Discord Server. Oh, and the game itself is at


Next, buy either any $10 Starter Pack or the $20 Triple Pack. You must use my referral code 777c835. If you do so, you and I each gain 2 booster packs. Further, if 10 players use the same referral code (I'm halfway there), they each get a random Epic Character card. This offer expires when this post pays out. You do NOT need to decide whether or not you enjoy eXode until the middle of September.


Simply send me your cards (and/or unopened packs if you bought the triple pack) and a screenshot of one of your Evacuation results (so that I know that you actually really tried eXode). I will send you Hive equivalent to either $20 or $40 based upon whether you bought a single starter pack or the triple pack.

What's the catch?

Astute readers will realize that I'll come out ahead as long as the number of people liking eXode is greater than those not liking it (a pretty safe bet). While opened starters decrease in value, I'm basically getting an unhappy customer's starter(s) plus my two booster packs (the customer's booster pack referral cards are locked to his account), so I lose $5-$6. OTOH, if you like eXode, which I'm pretty sure you will, I get two booster packs for a total of $6 and a new eXode player. The "catch" is that the deal profits me as well.

Another great deal (3 rare cards and a common)

I am also recruiting for an in-game alliance, the Artificial Intelligence Liberation Front (AILF, pronounced like “elf” with a Southern accent) which just might be led by the Mysterious AI. The alliance will have numerous in-game benefits. To start with, the next five players who sign up with my referral code and join AILF will receive a Syndicate Chip (common), a Syndicate Squad Leader (rare), a Syndicate Hacker (rare) and a Syndicate Auto-Blaster (rare). They should make evacuations MUCH easier (particularly with the Hacker upgrading the hyperdrive). Just let me know that you have used my referral code and wish to join AILF in the comments below and I will transfer you your cards.



Nice post to undestand the differences for both projects.

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