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Hattrick Economy: Review and Actions

2007-07-13 13:15:00

Over the last few months we have spent a lot of time analyzing the Hattrick game world and how it is developing, especially in terms of economy and player development. It has been apparent to many that something has not been healthy – especially looking at the increasingly collapsing transfer market – and there have been many theories about the cause of the problems, and of potential solutions to them.

We have listened closely to these discussions in the forums, and have tested them against the facts and statistics that we have on hand. We have also taken the help of two independent studies, one carried out by two national economists at the University of Stockholm, applying a strictly scientific perspective on the development of the Hattrick economy, and another by an experienced Hattrick user that has approached the same data, but also from a game experience point of view.

The conclusions of the two surveys were very similar when it came to describing the problems Hattrick faces.

To summarize, the long-term balance between team costs and team income has been broken, causing more and more money to leak out of Hattrick. One important factor here are salaries, attached as they are to a pool of players that are increasingly big, highly trained, and, therefore, expensive to maintain.
In the short term, we need to reverse the trend in the game that empties the overall economy of money, thereby stalling the transfer market as well as forcing many teams into bankruptcy.

Just as urgently, we need to start a long-term change towards giving Hattrick a more stable economy and player market, changes that will reduce or remove the need for us to make further direct interventions in the game economy. Some of these changes are already underway, or have influenced game design decisions in the past year.

Among our aims are controlling player creation and player retirement, reducing overall training (without making the game less fun and interesting), improving the game engine for multi-skilled players, restoring the idea of the best players also being the most valuable ones in the market, making sure Hattrick remains a game that holds interest for the casual gamer as well as for the hardcore.

Things we see today that we think can be fixed by moving in this direction are, for example, the broken transfer market, the low motivation for long-term training schemes, and the existence of farm teams and kamikaze teams.

There is much to do to, but it can be done and we think a lot of positive things will grow naturally from addressing the root causes, which are all connected to the input and output of the key resources in Hattrick: money and players.

It has often been said, also by the HT-team, that Hattrick is an economy that can and should regulate itself: If salaries are too high, users will adapt. This is true to a large degree, and it is certainly enough for the individual teams to decide their own fate. But it is not enough to reverse a failing global economy, possibly because at the end of the day Hattrick is more than an economic simulator, it is above everything a game, and it is our duty to update the parameters of the game to make sure it is both playable and challenging.

Short term issue: Money supply

Simply put, the current recession in Hattrick is due to the fact that costs have kept rising steadily for many seasons, while income has stayed put. The increase in costs is mostly due to higher salaries, as more and more players are added to the system and then are trained higher and higher.

The average team loses money and cannot compensate their losses through training and selling as in the past. Since the average team is losing money, money leaks from the global economy in Hattrick. In fact, we have seen similar patterns for many years but the global economy has then been fed by a very high growth of new users that bring fresh money into the game. As the growth rate has slowed down, there is less new money and also a lower demand for low skill players. That is perfectly OK, but it does mean we will need to adjust the money supply in Hattrick in other ways to keep the game healthy.

To improve the money supply in the short term, sponsorship money for all teams will be increased by €10 000 a week. We have previously announced that the interest rate on savings will be removed altogether, but in the light of our analysis this seems counter-productive, and we will keep a small interest on savings at half of the current rate. We will also lower the interest on borrowed money by one third.

On top of this, the price of constructing new arena seats will decrease by 25 percent. This will enable newer teams to expand their incomes quicker, as they get more fans. To compensate teams that have recently expanded their arenas under the old rules, a one-time grant of €25000 will be given to any team that have expanded their arena in the past calendar year.

All players in Hattrick has accepted a reduction of their salaries by €250 a week, and in a new agreement with the Player Union, the annual salary payments has been rearranged to make the last week of the season payment free for the Clubs. In addition to this, ticket prices have been increased by around 20 per cent.

We have tried to make this stimulation package as considerate as possible and to make it affect teams in a fair way. We absolutely realize that merely adding money to the system will not solve the long term problems Hattrick has, but it WILL help stimulate the economy while our other measures take effect. And this is needed.

2. Mid-term issue: Transfer market

The transfer market is the most visible facet of the economic problems in Hattrick, simply because it is the only way Hattrick teams have to interact financially with each other. In this regard, the transfer fills a very important role as it allows teams to specialize their training, build teams more imaginatively, and so on.

We believe there are a number of reasons for the low prices on the transfer today: the oversupply of high-skilled players, the lack of money in the system, fewer new teams that create demand for players and low motivation to retire older players, as well as the fact that the very high salaries for one-dimensional players disrupt the value model on the transfer, making the best players very cheap to buy, but impossibly expensive to employ.

These odd valuations make it harder to plan training, which is a key ingredient in Hattrick. Other negative effects include the possibility of short term strategies that are no fun, unrealistic and sometimes destructive: divine tricks, kamikaze teams, and so on.

However, we also know that while these ultra-expensive players are very visible and irritating on the market today, very few players are actually being trained to these levels any more – most users do take the extreme wages in account and stop training in time. The exceptions are the ones being trained for the national teams, and with changes in the match engine the recruitment focus of the national teams would likely change over time.

What is worrying, though, is a similar effect of ceased training is also starting to happen at levels where the wages are not extreme – the skill levels at which training becomes unprofitable is steadily creeping down, which means that if we were not to take action, we could face a situation in a few seasons time when NO training is profitable any longer. This trend is more fundamental and is connected to the overall economy, training and player supply.
We recognize it is important to reduce these transfer valuation effects, but we do not want to achieve that overnight, it is something that we hope to see grow gradually. The important thing now is to break the negative spiral.

The key method to restoring the pricing of the best players will be through the match engine, making secondary skills more valuable than they are today.
(We will present the changes, and make it possible for managers to test the tweaked match engine in friendly games before it is actually implemented in league and Cup play.)

We will also introduce a skill level factor in the skill drop formula, making it harder to maintain extreme skill levels – this will be especially noticeable at the levels above divine. We are also considering further changes that would discourage national team coaches from selecting one-dimensional players with one extremely high skill, gearing the focus of national teams towards the multi-skilled player. The end effect we are after is that highly skilled players, no matter what they look like, are likely to become more sought-after on the transfer market. But the best players, and the players to command the highest prices on the market, and that are likely candidates for national teams, are players with multiple skills.

This season we will also introduce a few new concepts that we think will move Hattrick in the right direction for the long term; a new system for stamina and also changes to how players develop over time. These changes will be presented in our next editorial, scheduled to be published on Monday. There we will also indicate some ideas we have for the next several seasons.

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