Wait To Play

In-game timers that make you arbitrarily wait for something.

A common dark pattern seen in modern mobile games is the timer. Often, you have a certain amount of "energy" that you can use to play the game. When you run out of energy, you can no longer play until this energy replenishes itself. This happens naturally over time, but you may have the opportunity to Pay To Skip the timer and instantly replenish it. When these two patterns are combined, the player has the opportunity to spend an unlimited amount of money on the game just to keep playing through an artificially barrier.

Another common in-game timer is related to "harvesting" or "research". You may send your character off to harvest some resources, but you have to wait an arbitrary amount of time before this task is completed. This forces you to stop playing and wait for the timer to expire. Often there is a way to pay money or watch an advertisement to accelerate or skip the timer.

Games that prevent you from playing them whenever you want are trying to get you to space out your playing throughout the day. This is a much better way for you to develop a habit of playing the game, and also a way to prevent players from reaching the end of a short game or getting burnt out on a repetitive game in a relatively short amount of time.

However it's implemented, the game is creating a negative experience for the player (not being able to play) that results in a positive outcome for the game developer (payment for skipping timers).
Citations and SourcesDark Patterns in the Design of Games


Solitaire Solitaire
"Weekly events - you play 7 games and then they make you wait a day or you have to watch an ad"

Stick War: Legacy Stick War: Legacy
"There's an AI tournament mode that you need to wait 3 hours between."

Onmyoji Onmyoji
"Stamina refill, but often you have more than you need"

Dragon RPG: Dragon Village M Dragon RPG: Dragon Village M
"Dragons grow with a timer which can take days to complete"

The Sims™ Mobile The Sims™ Mobile
"Every action takes a certain amount of time to complete, often somewhere around 30 minutes just to cook something in game for one. Most of the game consists of waiting and there's a max to how much you can do in a day"

Warhammer 40,000: Tacticus Warhammer 40,000: Tacticus
"everything revolves around in game timers"

The Sims™ FreePlay The Sims™ FreePlay
"Amount of actions you can take is limited by an energy bar you can pay to get past"

Frozen City Frozen City
"Building buildings take longer and longer."

Text Express: Word Adventure Text Express: Word Adventure
"There are certain activities you get limited time for and have to wait to then play again, and there's also a limit of experience you can gain before it starts telling you that you're "losing" experience by not waiting for it to fill back up again. However, you can just keep playing without getting extra experience if you want to ignore that."

Love Live!School idol festival Love Live!School idol festival
"You can play songs for LP (live points). They recover slowly over time, and you can spend items or premium currency to refill."