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


Purrfect Tale Purrfect Tale
"Yeah- I already talked about that in pay to skip though"

Crush Crush Crush Crush
"You have to wait from as little as minutes to as much as days to complete tasks, earn in-game currency, and to get phone fling responses."

GunboundM GunboundM
"more resource-based limitations"

Last Fortress Last Fortress
"Events, monthly seasons"

Shadow Fight 2 Special Edition Shadow Fight 2 Special Edition
"There's this feature called Duels where the equipment you fight with is random and it makes you wait for 4 hours but only if you win. If you lose you can keep playing. This might compel you to keep playing until you win. You can still access the rest of the game, when you win."

Melvor Idle: Ad Free Melvor Idle: Ad Free
"This is the entire game"

Gossip Harbor: Merge Game Gossip Harbor: Merge Game
"Item creation can take 5 seconds to 12 hours to recharge"

Seaside Escape Seaside Escape
"Item creation requires recharge times. You can pay gems to speed the recharge up."

Palace Rule Palace Rule
"Some events are time based and can’t be accessed unless you log in at the right time."

Pocket Stables Pocket Stables
"Each in-game day lasts a couple of minutes, with automatic pausing in menus, giving you unlimited time to decide what you want to do. But sometimes you do have to just wait for time to tick by to get to the start time of a race, or wait for the end of the day when you've done everything you want."