Successful Implementation of Extrinsic Motivation in Splatoon 2



With the unique proposition of the Switch, Nintendo finds themselves in new territory in between a console and a mobile device.  This has led to an integration of mobile game techniques into Splatoon 2 to motivate the player to return.


Games have both intrinsic and extrinsic motivators.  Free-to-play mobile games often use extrinsic motivation to encourage the player to return back to the game.  Developers do this to increase their chance at revenue.  They stall gameplay behind a waiting period, purposely slowing the experience so that the player wants to speed it up (possibly spending money to do so).  For example, in Clash of Clans, the developer uses building as a means for the player to return to the game.  If I start constructing a barracks now, it’ll finish in a certain amount of time, and I’ll return to the game to reap the benefits.  Mobile games are not the only ones that utilize this mechanic.  Blizzard has done this as well in regard to Garrisons and Order Halls in their MMORPG, World of Warcraft.  Players can spend resources to engage in missions for rewards.  After the mission duration, the player has a reward waiting for them when they return.


Extrinsic motivation can be dangerous because developers can lose sight of what really makes a game fun.  When extrinsic motivation is overused, players often find themselves returning to a game, but they are unsure why.  It isn’t fun.  It becomes more of an obligation, and the developer risks losing the player.  Nintendo, on the other hand, has a history of developing games primarily based on intrinsic motivation.  The Legend of Zelda Breath of the Wild is a great example.  The player wants to explore the world to simply see what’s on the other side of a hill or up a waterfall.  The experience itself is rewarding.


In a change of pace, Nintendo dapples with extrinsic motivation in Splatoon 2 by adding a mobile companion app where the player can order gear from Splatnet.  The gear takes a certain amount of time to arrive, thus motivating the player to return to the game later to collect their reward.  This is new territory for Nintendo, using mobile gaming extrinsic motivators to get players to come back.  Is Nintendo profiting from this?


Splatoon 2 is different from Clash of Clans and World of Warcraft because Nintendo isn’t directly profiting from the system.  Clash of Clans encourages players to spend real money to speed up the game.  Encouraging the player to return to the game equals more revenue.


Despite the different models in which the publisher receives revenue, i.e. subscription, micro-transaction, or retail purchase, they all want to prolong the games ability to make money.  With free-to-play games (F2P), publishers often use micro-transactions, allowing the player to purchase items with real money to enhance their experience.  For subscription based games, such as World of Warcraft, the longer the developer can keep you playing the game, the more subscription time you’ll purchase.  Nintendo’s model however is different.  Once you have purchased the game, they have their 60 dollars, however word of mouth is a powerful thing.  The viral reception of a game is essential to all revenue models.  This is referred to as the game’s K-factor, how many new players does your average player bring in?


Nintendo’s usage of extrinsic motivation popular in mobile games is more persuasive because it encourages me to play more Splatoon 2, not to pay more money.  The Splatnet feature and Splatoon 2 companion app show the potential synergies between mobile gaming and console gaming.  Seems like a good fit for the Nintendo Switch, a portable game console.