Scrolls is a new card game made by Mojang (Minecraft). It is still in beta status, but like Minecraft you can pay early at a discount to get access to the beta and the eventual full game. I have had a lot of fun collecting cards in this game. Compared to Hearthstone it is much faster to get new cards, but that should be the case considering Scrolls is not free-to-play. Still, there are some problems with the in-game economy that I have noticed.
Single Player vs. Multiplayer Rewards
In this game, you get new cards by spending gold. You get gold by playing either single player (vs. AI) or multiplayer matches, with more gold for playing real people (multiplayer). However, they underestimated both the speed that you can defeat AI players and the win rates against them. Against Easy AI, you can win pretty much every game. On the other hand, multiplayer matches take much longer, and most players only win half their games. Even though multiplayer games award 3 times as much gold, the single player games are just so much faster they end up giving more gold in the long run.
Most players feel conflicted because they want to play multiplayer, but single player is the fastest way to get new cards. I think the best change would be to make losses worth more in multiplayer. Right now, a multiplayer loss awards about the same amount of gold as a single player loss. Combined with the the lower win rate and longer match length, multiplayer just gives less gold per hour spent playing the game than single player. Increase the gold for multiplayer losses though, and things will even out much more.
Since I really get into the collecting aspect of card games, I have no reason to play multiplayer. Sure, I play some multiplayer when the AIs get boring, but that is only 1 or 2 games out of the whole night. I believe if Mojang balanced these two sides, a lot more people would do multiplayer and queue times would be lowered.
Single Card Booster Packs vs. Ten Card Booster Packs
It is nice to have different options when it comes to getting new cards, but Mojang failed to balance the worth of these packs. For the purpose of this discussion, I am referring to the single card booster packs that give a card for a random faction. I believe the faction-specific ones for 200 gold are priced well. Because the ten card booster packs cost 1000 gold as opposed to 100 gold for single card booster packs (random faction), these more expensive packs should give more value for gold. In reality, the single card booster packs have roughly the same chances to get Uncommon and Rare cards as the ten card booster packs.
The ten card booster packs give 1 Rare, 2 Uncommons, and 7 Commons. That is basically the same as 10% chance for a Rare, 20% chance for an Uncommon, and 70% chance for a Common. The single card booster packs have roughly the same odds over time but cost quite a bit less. There is no incentive to ever buy the ten card booster for 1000 gold. For this one, I think the best change would be to increase the number of Uncommons to 3 and reduce the number of Commons to 6. Another possible change would be to add an additional card, now you get 11 cards for the price of 10.
I have heard rumors recently that Mojang lowered the Rare and Uncommon chances in single card boosters. If that is true, maybe they have addressed this, but that is not the right way to go about it. A developer should never penalize its players when it makes a mistake. Instead, they should have buffed the ten card booster packs to give it the right amount of value.
Trading With Players vs. Buying From the Store
When the game came out, no one had any cards in their collections other than the preconstructed deck they started with. Within two months dedicated players had collected every card available. While there was great randomness in the cards you got from booster packs, the overall playerbase working together negated that completely. Through trading, you could get every card available with minimal effort compared to most card games. You might get lucky buying booster packs from the store, but you could get guaranteed results through trading.
While part of the problem is the low amount of cards in the game (only ~200 so far), the bigger problem is the trading itself. The developers have underestimated the power of the free market. Every card quickly hit an equilibrium in gold value based on demand. The price to buy a complete set of cards is many times cheaper than buying booster packs. In real life, travelling back and forth to trade cards puts a very big limit on how useful trading is to get cards. In a digital environment, trading is sped up so much it becomes trivial to get any card.
I see only two solutions to this problem. The first will be the most acceptable to players, and that is for Mojang to speed up how often it releases new cards. Currently, they release one new card per faction every 2 weeks. Four new cards is not enough to keep booster packs useful, especially if they are common cards. I believe an acceptable rate would be 8 new Commons, 4 new Uncommons, or 2 new Rare cards in every card update. That is about double the current release rate.
The second possible solution is to severely limit trading. They could put a limit on how many trades can be made per week, or even put a gold cost on every trade, say 10% of the paid amount. As I wrote above though, a developer should never penalize its players if there is another option. The trading system is good for new players to catch up. As new cards come out a lot of old cards lose value, and through trading, new players can get a good library of cards quickly.
This problem will be alleviated in the short term; Mojang just added the Decay deck this week, which has a nice 50ish cards in it. The booster packs from the store will see more use than normal with so many new cards added that no one has yet. Within a few months though, trading between players will dominate again.
Mojang has a lot of work ahead of them to get Scrolls into shape for a full release. Hopefully, they will see these problems and make good changes to improve the game. In its current state, I think the game will last a good two years or more, but it could do so much better if these issues are addressed. Scrolls has good competition in Hearthstone and other online card games that released this year. Mojang will need to be on the ball if they are to stand the test of time.