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Designing for Virality: Scarcity

Part 1 of a series. A game design thought experiment.

There was magic in the arcades of old. Newcomers could not simply pick up and play a popular game – they had to watch in awe for the completion or failure of the existing player. Imagine a game with a single board or dedicated arena for 2 players. New players queue in line, their avatars shuffling forward towards a mountain lurking in the distance. On their way, they can see a live turn-by-turn game projected into the sky of the gameworld. The game is configured to run on a consistent timer, with a short break between each round.

Players can study the game as much or as little as they wish in their queue. Idle chat can be made with other avatars near them. When at last they reach the mountain, they receive a notification (email, push/desktop notification) warning them of their impending game. When their avatar ascends the mountain path, they seat themselves across from the current champion. Camera switches to the sky projection – the player is at last competing!

Winner stays.

Your score is marked simply: “Games Won”.

But there’s a secret, hinted at only by the achievement named “Second Mountain” – win 9 times and instead of your avatar being sent to the start of the queue upon defeat, they descend the other side and trek towards the second mountain, where the real champions await.

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