When it comes to social-mobile games, Russian incubator company, Game Insight has published some rather popular titles including the highest-grossing app in all of Android Market, Paradise Island HD and one past social title, The Syndicate! HD. Their latest release, which appears to be developed by a group within the incubator called 17bullets (though they have no official website), is a free-to-play title, My Clinic. Released May 19th, the game currently holds the #21 spot on the top free iPad apps list and has even breached the top 50 at #42 on the top grossing chart as well.
A social game where users join friends and attempt to build a successful hospital, many of the mechanics of the more “standard” virtual space business sim type of game have been streamlined. In fact, the game functions, more or less, the same as its predecessor, The Syndicate! HD. That said, the game does hold some features that coax players further into both returning more frequently and purchasing more virtual items inside the app.
So players have gotten their hands on their very own clinic, and are tasked with its management and growth. Don’t worry. This isn’t too hard, as the game comes down to managing three primary elements: patients, employee morale, and efficiency.
The first is the bread and butter of the game. Depending on the user’s progress, they will be able to treat a variety of ailments ranging from frostbites to pampered patients with a broken nail. Regardless of the perceived illness, patients will take any where from a few seconds to several hours to treat, paying the player when treatment is complete (the longer the treatment, the greater the payout). Thankfully, unlike most social games, the player need not worry about returning at a timely manner.
In many social games, like the farming kind, returning after too long a period of time has expired will result in a lost of profits (e.g. crops spoil). However, this will never happen in My Clinic. That said, players do receive a bonus for returning and claiming pay when it is ready.
Part of the reason many social developers implement this “spoiling” feature is to urge players to come back frequently or spend purchased virtual currency to “revive” these failed crops; or suffer lost profits. This is more a negative reinforcement. My Clinic tends to focus on positive reinforcement.
In order to get users to return more frequently, My Clinic incorporates two major game mechanics: Emergency patients and aggravations. The former is a rare medical emergency that will not normally appear with the rest of the patients and these jobs typically pay more money.
Aggravations, are a bit different. These are problems that will occur at some point during treatment and are displayed on the treatment’s progress bar. In order to treat an aggravation, players must return when the progress bar is passing through this area and apply a virtual item that can be purchased with both in-game cash or virtual currency. Doing so will not only accelerate the total treatment process, but will earn immediate revenue and can earn users “collection items” that can be used in their 2D virtual space.
This virtual space game doesn’t have the same level of creativity that many other business sim games have, but it can be upgraded to be more aesthetically pleasing and more functional. As users upgrade their hospital, they will be able to hire more doctors which can be both friends, which are free, or non-player characters (which can be bought with virtual or in-game currency). The latter, however, only has a limited supply and new NPCs can only be hired daily.
The more doctors one has, the more patients can be treated. This is key because as the player levels up and unlocks new ailments, they’ll need to have more employees to manage them. Unfortunately, hiring more team members decreases morale. In order to mitigate this, players must purchase new equipment for the rooms inside their building. It is also unclear as to what morale actually affects. All the game really states is that it can not be lower than 75 percent, nor higher than 125 percent.
Morale can also be temporarily boosted via in-game items (e.g. coffee) for temporary periods of time. These items are rewards for completing various “quests” in-game, such as hiring a certain number of doctors, or they can be simply purchased with virtual currency.
My Clinic has fairly involved social features for a game of its type. Not only can players visit other users’ spaces via half-a-dozen leaderboards and leave messages on their walls, but they can form Associations with all of their friends that play. This is a feature where users can drag lower level friends to be part of their own, for lack of a better term, pyramid scheme. As they earn money, the player that made the association will earn a small percentage as well. The downside, is the lower level player doesn’t seem to really benefit. Also, like most social games, players can visit friends’ spaces and perform a menial task to “help” their hospital for an added experience bonus. In most social games, this is merely a prompt that players click.
There is one more social element worth mentioning, and that is that the game can be connected to both Facebook and Twitter. What’s interesting is that My Clinic uses the whole incentive concept once again. Each day, users are rewarded coins for returning (with more for consecutive days), but they are rewarded even more should they connect to one, or both, of the social networks. Players can also take photos of their virtual space and post them to these feeds.
Regarding any further notes on monetization, this new title also allows users to expedite patient treatment times using virtual currency as well as “cheaply” upgrade hospital equipment or even purchase higher quality buildings. This virtual currency can be purchased in quantities ranging from 20 to 1,000 at a price range of $1.99 to $9.99. Additionally, users can also purchase earnable in-game currency at the same price range for quantities of 80,000 to 4,000,000 respectively. However, many freemium games in recent time have only included the former and simply lets users convert it to in-game coin at their digression.
Overall, My Clinic is a pretty decent social-mobile game. It feels a lot like The Syndicate! HD reskinned, but there is a lot more sophistication in terms of monetization in this game that were not in its predecessor. Although the purpose of a few elements in the game are not really clear (e.g. how morale is really useful), the app is easy enough to learn and focuses heavily on positive reinforcement to keep users coming back. Though it’s not as creative as many social business sims, it is a game that is easy to pick up and play for just a few minutes at a time.