It has been 3 months since my last update when it comes down to my goal of onboard 100 active players to Splinterlands. A lot has happened since, with mainly the controversial Collection Power System and League Rankings. This is the impact so far on signups, player retention, and my personal sentiment on the game...
So there have been 3 major upgrades that indirectly affect affiliates potentially increasing or decreasing the sign-up and retention rate. (not counting the Brave Partnership
1 Collection Power Score
So the game gave out too many rewards and the gap between what higher level players earned compared to that of players on the lower rankings was way too small because lower value accounts also managed to reach quite high rankings. This made it so that there were a lot of low-level bots farming the rewards. As a solution, the Collection Power score was introduced which basically says that if the value of your collection is not high enough you won't be able to move to a higher league and get more rewards.
While this has been quite successful in terms of lowering the rewards that are given out to pretty much all account aside from the top dogs, it has also taken away all sense of progression pretty much putting players behind a paywall. Right now Splinterlands feels like a game that is both Pay-2-Play and Pay-2-Win combined. From a psychological point of view this is just horrible and I still haven't heard an argument against why it wouldn't have been way better to just 'lower rewards for everyone and give bonus rewards to players with a higher collection score' as that would give the same results only with a positive incentive instead of a negative one.
2 League Rankings
So each league (Bronze - Silver - Gold - Diamond - Champion) now has its own leaderboard that allows players to compete for the top spots to get Untamed Pack Rewards. The problem that this created is that it totally fractured the player pool making it so that many of the games are just complete mismatches where the winner is known in advance just because they have way more powerful cards. Just looking at the leaderboard ranking, the win rates of the top players are easily 90%+ not because they are good players but because of the Pay-2-Win factor. For me, this has pretty much taken all enjoyment out of the game this last month.
Also when looking at the collection Power Score of the top players in the Bronze league, they regularly show a 100k+ rating while the requirements to get the Bronze 1 season rewards are 5k Power.
I just can't see how this system adds any fun or any sense of progression for new players. Maybe if the total player base goes x10 and it is actually possible to match players with roughly equal summoner level against each other it might work.
3 New Player Tutorial
Splinterlands despite being a relatively simple game so far has worked quite paralyzing on new players as they are required to figure out how it all works first. The game has a horrible conversion rate of players making an account (which is really easy) and getting them to actually play a match let alone buy the summoner's spellbook. In an attempt to fix this, a new player tutorial was created which automatically starts for new players. So I tested it out and I'm not sure what to say aside from the fact that it made me want to kill myself as the experience of going through it was just unbearingly painful to the point that I wasn't even able to complete it.
The way I look at it, it again shows the complete lack of psychological understanding in what players need in order to get them to the point where they reach a certain hook point after which they just want to continue playing. I said before that 95%+ of players that come want a fun initial experience that doesn't require any mental effort whatsoever. This tutorial is similar to reading the 'how to play page' which is just way too much to ask for the average new players.
Getting players to the point where they want to make an account and test it out is quite easy, the game, however, seems to do everything it can to prevent them to want to actually start playing though and this is seen in the numbers. The Tutorial which was going to be the big solution in my view might have made this even worse now. The same thing goes for the collection power & League Leaderboard systems.
When I started playing the game over a year ago, the initial experience was not all too good (read bad) and I would probably also instantly have given up if it wasn't for the fact that I was invested into Steem/Hive and some close friends were playing the game having fun with it. It took a couple of days completing the daily quest before the game somewhat clicked for me and became quite an addictive loop that actually got me to re-invest earnings into more cards since I felt quite comfortable I was going to be able to sell them if I wanted to which was one of the things that made me believe in its potential.
I can't imagine going through the initial user experience now and being sold on the game. Not only is the tutorial something I personally just am unable to sit through, the game after trying it for free is also Pay-2-Play if you really want to do anything (own your cards, get daily quests, tournaments,...) after which it almost instantly puts you behind a paywall saying you need to pay more to get rewards from higher leagues (Collection Power), if you get to that point it just turns into Pay-2-Win because you need way more to ever be competitive for the top league ranks (League Leaderboards). If you get there you will pretty much win every game because you get matched up with much weaker opponents.
All this while the core gameplay loop of the game can actually be really fun and addictive as a regular game aside from any of the rewards.
Affiliate Payout Loophole
So bringing in an affiliate earns 5% of all the purchases that player makes in the form of the Summoner's spellbook and Booster packs. That is when it is done in credits as DEC does not count toward affiliate earnings. Since there is very little incentive for players to pay with Credits since doing it in DEC is always cheaper, it feels like a loophole to bypass having to pay Affiliates. I had a little discussion about it on the Splinterlands Discord but I haven't read anything yet that debunks the core of my logic. Feel Free to let me know your thoughts in the comments.
On to the actual numbers of the last 3 months of onboarding new players...
Because of the reasons mentioned above, the number of players that don't get further than 0-3 ranked games is ridiculously high. Those that do survive the early stages and get the summoner's spellbook tend to continue playing on a regular basis. From the 19 that signed up in February, 11 still have an active ranking with 6 of them with a rank above 1000. Average Player Rankings for those with an active ranking did get a big hit because of the new systems in place.
Right now, I'm clearly not all too high on Splinterlands as I just don't see a more mainstream adoption happening anytime soon if things remain how they are. When it comes down to recommending or promoting things, I always ask the question if I would recommend it to myself. Right now I can't say that is the case anymore for Splinterlands as the game just lost a lot of the fun factor for me. For now, I will continue playing in the hope things get better again and the Sign-up Deal I'm offering to everyone that is using my referral link still counts.
I will bring another update on how things have gone with both the game and the affiliates at the end of this year. The active players base which includes many bots has been stuck at around 5000-6000 on a daily basis and it only remains to be seen how much the Brave Browser Partnership will bring in if any.
Important: Treat games in the first place as games and not as investment opportunities, Splinterlands allows you to earn some money and get good returns but you are much better off flipping burgers in Mcdonalds when looking at the money earned for the time invested.