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I am designing a trading card game for mobiles, with the possibility to add cards to your collection using Gems, aquired through victories and inapp purchases.

I am thinking to increase the spread of the game with a tracking system on game invites, enabling the user to invite a friend to play the game. If the friend doesn't own the game client (which is free) he will be offered to download it. If he joins the game, the original player earns X amount of gems as an reward.

There can only be one player per mobile device, which should rule out some harvesting.

My question is, how do you think the structure of this would be recieved ? All invites are mail based, unless the player already exists in the game world (then he gets a ingame invitation.)

I have set a flood filter, so a player can only invite a friend (without the client installed) once a month.

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(removed networking, which I believe is for actual client-server like problems, feel free to add a more appropriate one) –  Lohoris Mar 27 '12 at 12:39
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up vote 2 down vote accepted

I see some issues with your currently planned system:

  • Flood filter. Well-intentioned, but too harsh, if sensible at all. Once a month? Much too long. If your player wants to refer people, he wants to refer as many as possible (for reward and/or because he genuinely wants other people to enjoy your game), and you want as many players, most preferably paying ones, as possible. So with that spam filter you set a hard limit on what both parties want to achieve. Bad idea.
    • A much better way of limiting floods is to improve the quality of invites, i.e. as already suggested, give rewards only if the referred player actually spends money on your game. Second, if you're already planning to track the invites, then communicate and apply an anti-spamming policy, such as manually punishing top spam offenders, for example by removing their invite bonuses temporarily or permanently.
  • Mail based invites. Certainly works, but why not use social media, like Facebook? Much more efficient and the preferred way of recommending stuff nowadays, and really a no-brainer on smart mobiles, which all your potential players have anyway.

    • Switching from Mail to social media also greatly reduces the ability for and attractiveness of spamming, because such sites typically already have anti-spamming policies in place, and at least there is a reputation at stake for the potential offenders.

As for the actual reward, as suggested, give rewards only for referred players that actually pay. That also removes the rationale behind farming because whoever the actual person behind a device/purchase is, you earn money.

Important:

Make both players, the referrer and the referral, benefit from the invite and the first purchase. Give them both some free Gems, or exclusive items, or a discount on their next purchase, or on purchases for the next X dollars (or whatever you real life currency is), maybe even a multi-level referral system like League of Legends has, or whatever. Even something as simple as a prominent "top referrers list", measured by the money the referrals spend, and with no other benefits for the referrer, can help boost your referrals, because people very simply like to be on top of lists.

And, for the love of the Gaming Gods, if you make a Trading Card Game, either make the cards tradable or remove the Trading bit.

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Given how often role playing games have no roleplaying, and real time strategy games are about tactics not strategy, and adventures are about puzzles and not adventure, I would not be upset if a trading card game had limited trading. Although, I don't often play card games, so what do I know. –  Superbest Mar 30 '12 at 11:42
    
@NilsMunch stated that there is no trading whatsoever, so it's not equivalent to some intricate strategy-vs-tactics discussion, it's plain and simply not a Trading game of any sort. Sure anyone can choose to call a thing whatever he or she wants, but words have a meaning for a reason. It's like calling Chess a top-down shooter. –  Hackworth Apr 4 '12 at 7:43
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Doesn't work, for the reasons you stated.

What usually happens with well-designed invite systems, is that the invitor gets credited something only once the invited pays for a subscription.

Now, your problem is that there isn't a subscription. What you can do, if and only of the items you buy are "bind on pickup" (i.e. not tradable between players), is to credit the bonus to the invitor once the invited actually buys anything.

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accounts can not trade gems or cards in any way. –  Nils Munch Mar 27 '12 at 21:31
    
@NilsMunch then my suggestion will work, go on this way :) –  Lohoris Mar 27 '12 at 21:40
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You make a Trading Card Game where players are unable to trade cards? How does that work? Wouldn't that just be a Card Game then? Joking aside, you should be careful how you advertise your game vs. the reality of it. –  Hackworth Mar 28 '12 at 9:48
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