How are drop rates manipulated in games?

7Chain Project
Sep 6, 2018 · 7 min read
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I have previously worked as a product manager alongside with a reporter specializing in online games sector.

One of the most frequent questions I have got was ‘So do they really fiddle with drop rates on those games?’.

To be frank — this is no longer an industry secret nowadays; a number of service providers in the past have been publicly busted in guilt of manipulating who only then apologized.

End users would typically react to this as if they knew this all along, which becomes much burden to industry professionals. In fact, majority of games are servicing their products in ways they should be.

Some colleagues who I came to acquaint informed me over several occasions, saying that ‘such manipulations did happen in the past’ — why and how are such manipulations made possible?

I am hereby disclosing a few examples in hope that these will never occur in the future.

The three distinct examples of drop rate manipulations.

a. Quantity manipulation: Set the outcome probability to 0% then adjust accordingly per circumstances

In this case we start off with 0% probability that an item would not be obtainable at all, until people start voicing their concerns over extreme probability — this is the point where the likelihood of outcome would be adjusted little by little until the target quantity of an item have been obtained.

b. Probability modification: Start with a low probability, then adjust accordingly per circumstances

This is like a two-sided blade. Let’s say you are responsible for a RPG game where you set a certain item to drop at a mind-blowing chance of 0.1%. When you feel that too many have been released you can set it to in the neighborhood of 0.05%. Now when as new content is added to the game, difficulty of which is soon unbearable for many people as they would much benefit from this particular item. Rate at this stage can be set high again so more end users would obtain the item. This is perhaps the most common method used for many services as it would be virtually impossible for users to prove drop rate manipulation.

c. Item Guarantee for payment tiers: obtain item for spending

Let’s say you have a VIP user who spends fortune on a game yet never had the slightest luck. She never obtained the desired item while spending more than $10,000; a system can be set up in a way such that certain items would never be dropped until users spend certain amount. It can also be set up so that even a small amount would cause certain items to pop up, in effort to achieve higher conversion rate of non-paying users to paying users

Nowadays there are some users going the old-fashioned way to discover any signs of manipulations. These so-called ‘credit card (wallet) warriors’ spend thousands of Dollars to see if certain items actually do drop as advertised. An experiment as such sometimes become a good medium for user-created content.

‘Gacha Streaming’, one of the most popular streaming content

This is somewhat a funny yet sad side of the phenomenon — there are ‘Gacha Streams’ on the Internet that has rapidly gained popularity ever since more people got to know about the drop rate controversy. One good example comes from Overwatch, where single footage showing openings of its random boxes has accumulated well over 3 million views. (Overwatch — Craziest Loot Boxes)

In fact, many streamers plan ahead prior to doing a live streaming on random box openings for an added excitement. They literally spend and open these random boxes before the eys of those all over the world, while getting either congratulated or laughed at depending on their outcomes (it is more common to witness the latter since it’s easier for many other users to sympathize).

Some streams are not necessary for excitement — as a matter of fact some angry users stream to publicly investigate drop rates on certain items. A streamer in this case would first get as much donation as possible, who then goes ahead with a large purchase in order to open these boxes over many hours.

Either way let’s suppose a streamer opened a certain random box 3,000 times in an attempt to obtain an item with an advertised drop rate of 1%; when unsuccessful, would viewers feel the pity for the poor streamer, or simply blame the developer?

Why manipulate drop rates?

A drop rate manipulation could have originated from either incompetent product planning, or from an improvisation to increase net revenue.

Waller warriors are simply the most important source of revenue for any games with the micro-transaction monetization model implemented, where these users would typically make up for 90% of net revenue. In a contrary, those lucky ones who manage to obtain certain items spending less than a fraction of wallet warriors may not be retainable at all — even without drop rates being manipulated. Those developers sized small to medium sometimes had to manipulate rates in their games in order to retain those important paying users — they too, had to survive in the market.

Starting last December, Apple Inc. released an updated App Store guideline requiring all developers to disclose drop rates of all their random boxes. Same is already being done for most games developed by well-known companies.

All this however is irrelevant when systems are structured in a centralized fashion — this is a type of environment where trust could never be built between developers and their end users.

There are two main reasons why end users cannot trust disclosed drop rates entirely. First, it is developers who set these ‘rates’ — there is no way for end users to know whether these are fair rates or whether they are same as the actual in-game rates. Another reason has to do with the ‘integrity’ can never be guaranteed, since there is no way to verify whether rates are kept as-is or manipulated.

7Chain is working to resolve this distrust issue with its proprietary RNG that involves direct involvement of end users.

In simple words — this algorithm would involve end users in the process of generating drop rates. Random numbers would come from developers, end users and 7Chain (the ‘Arbitrator’). Numbers generated from each party would be encrypted and sent to all others involved, where these three numbers would be converted into a single number via a formula disclosed to public.

7Chain’s RNG protocol involving end users

There are two main reasons why end users cannot trust disclosed drop rates entirely. First, it is developers who set these ‘rates’ — there is no way for end users to know whether these are fair rates or whether they are same as the actual in-game rates. Another reason has to do with the ‘integrity’ can never be guaranteed, since there is no way to verify whether rates are kept as-is or manipulated.

7Chain is working to resolve this distrust issue with its proprietary RNG that involves direct involvement of end users.

In simple words — this algorithm would involve end users in the process of generating drop rates. Random numbers would come from developers, end users and 7Chain (the ‘Arbitrator’). Numbers generated from each party would be encrypted and sent to all others involved, where these three numbers would be converted into a single number via a formula disclosed to public.

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▲ 7Chain’s RNG protocol involving end users

A game meets ‘Smart Contract’ — what happens next?

Let’s suppose all drop rates are created fairly and equally. Wouldn’t it be possible for those rates to be manipulated later on?

7Chain logs entire process permanently using the Smart Contract technology.

This technology, simply put, is a contract utilizing a Blockchain technology. Once logged, it is distributed to everyone and saved to Blockchain thus makes it impossible to manipulate. In other words — this ‘contract’ does not put a creator at an advantage.

All numbers and drop rates generated by all involved parties are permanently logged onto Blockchain, making any attempts to manipulate pointless as they would be put before eyes all over the world. (vice versa only upon approval from all involved parties)

7Chain envisions a new kind of ecosystem that can be trusted.

Our RNG protocol currently has completed its international PCT patenting registration; we have already executed a RNG technology demo using an early version of MVP. We plan to continue demonstrating how this technology can be applied to actual games. 7Chain Team wish to have your continued supports and attentions.

7chain

The world’s first decentralized Gaming RNG Platform

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