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


Mighty DOOM Mighty DOOM
"Each mission / run costs 5 energy (you have a max of 20 energy, that you can refill by paying with gems, costing time of grinding or real money)"

Honkai: Star Rail Honkai: Star Rail
"Trailblaze power caps how much diversions you can do."

Forge of Empires Forge of Empires
"its the core mechanic basically"

Merge Studio Merge Studio
"You get items to merge from boxes to that cost you energy that will run out eventually. You have to wait, pay, or watch adds to get more energy and it’s the same things for the box’s in which you get your items to merge from."

Coin Dozer Coin Dozer
"You are forced to wait for coins to regenerate, which takes about 30 seconds."

Pikmin Bloom Pikmin Bloom
"many things run on timers. sending pikmin on expeditions, collecting accessories when you've leveled a pikmin enough, and battling mushrooms (which used to take anywhere from 30 seconds to a few hours but was recently updated to take several hours to multiple days to complete)"

Shadow Fight 3 Shadow Fight 3
"void energy and there is no way to get repetetively better gear as a newer player because events are harder without legendary gear/perks so you have to wait for free stuff"

Sandship: Crafting Factory Sandship: Crafting Factory
"Certain feature is time locked, and progress at large requires waiting. Not sure if it qualifies"

Kawaii Home Design Kawaii Home Design
"The game is to design a room, and then have people judge it by voting. But to play one level, first you need a currency that you can only win by voting. You need to vote between 25 and 100 times just to be able to play one level, depending on the difficulty."

Food Street - Restaurant Management & Food Game Food Street - Restaurant Management & Food Game
"Yep I've seen over 10 hour items"