Pokémon Unite has been yet another smash hit for Nintendo and The Pokémon Company's spinoff Pokémon titles. And its developers seem to have cracked the code for reducing rage-quitting in their game--just by turning off the scoreboard.
TiMi Studio Group describes Pokémon Unite as a "strategic team battle game," but it has a lot in common with the MOBA (Multiplayer Online Battle Arena) genre.
Instead of trying to destroy the enemy's base, players bounce across the map, engaging in battles in an effort to score points. The team with the most points at the end is the winner.
But while you're in a Pokémon Unite match, you'll have no idea which team is winning. And apparently that's a deliberate choice. TiMi Studio Group producer Masaaki Hoshino told Kotaku that turning off the game's scoreboard helps ensure players stay through a match from beginning 'til the end.
"The matches last 10 minutes and players have the possibility of making a comeback, so we wanted people to play without giving up to the very end," he wrote via e-mail.
Players do have some sense of which team is ahead via audio clips, but they're deliberately designed to not reveal how far the score is.
It's an interesting solution that may have merit for other developers who want to boost retention in their matches. If players feel more likely to pull out a win--even if they're literally behind--they might stick around long enough to pull off an unexpected maneuver and win the whole thing.
It'd be difficult to directly apply this philosophy to many other multiplayer games--whether it's a MOBA or Battle Royale, there are a lot of clues players need that are directly tied to knowing the game state. But TiMi Studio Group seems to have hit on a more important design element, which is that if players perceive their ability to win, they'll stick around even if there's evidence they're losing.