The Sisyphean tasks of Pinduoduo’s gamification – Part 2: Collecting beans and earning a fortune
The Sisyphean tasks of Pinduoduo’s gamification – Part 2: Collecting beans and earning a fortune

Sisyphus, a king In Greek mythology, was punished for cheating death. In the underworld he had to roll a large boulder up a hill. Every time he almost reached the top of the hill the boulder would roll down again. Sisyphus was cursed to repeat the same task every day. That’s what it felt like when I spend a few days trying out the gamifications inside the popular Chinese e-commerce app Pinduoduo…

As soon as your collected total reaches 100 RMB you can transfer it to WeChat Pay. But getting to that amount in the required 24 hours gets progressively difficult and requires you opening the app multiple times a day and getting a lot of friends involved. For Pinduoduo (PDD) it is clearly a way to stimulate user retention and cheap customer acquisition.

But this was only the beginning. In this second part I will describe two more games that have me open the app frequently and scroll through products: Sign-in Beans and Duo Duo earn a fortune.

The top of the page shows me 5 drawings of hong bao. Clicking on those I am told I can transfer 30 RMB, 50 RMB or a random amount to my WeChat Pay account in exchange for collected beans. Of course, for the first two options I would need 3.000 and 5.000 beans. So instead, I choose the random amount. Doing so reduces my beans by 5 and gave me 0.05 RMB (€0.0014 Euro) in WeChat Pay. 

Beans can be used as discounts when buying certain products. So how can I get more beans? A button below my number of collected beans shows ‘receive 3 hong bao’. Clicking on it takes me to a menu showing me all the things I can earn. A banner shows me I can get 50-100 beans by checking in every day. I can also get 3 more hong bao

The second button tells me I can earn beans by scrolling the product assortment page for 60 seconds. While I scroll around a timer at the top of the screen is counting down. But as soon as I stop scrolling the timer stops to. It forces me to look at products if I want my beans.

While browsing a pop-up tells me that I can earn extra beans by actually ordering one of those products. A red button under each product tells me how many beans I can earn when buying it. Let me get this straight: to earn beans to exchange for free products I need to buy other products. This basically is a point scheme that rewards return usage of the app and purchasing behaviour. On top of the already cheap prices in PDD it gives me another reason to actually make a purchase.

Duo Duo Earn a Fortune

In the main menu an icon of a piggy bank takes me to Duo Duo Earn a Fortune (多多赚大钱, duō duō zhuàn dà qián). That sounds tempting but of course I should have known better… Clicking on the icon shows me a message telling me I have received ‘free premium benefits’ worth 115 RMB (€16). Again, this turns out to be a game where I need to return multiple days to collect and eventually withdraw gifts.

In case I don’t know how to get back here tomorrow a ‘quiz’ gives me two options:

A – Open Pinduoduo’s home screen and click on ‘Dou Dou Earn a Fortune’

B – I don’t know.

(Well duh!)

I decide to tease PDD a bit and click on B. A message tells me ‘Wrong! Please choose again!’ When I click the correct answer, I’m giving a WeChat hong bao of 0.01 RMB (oh yes!) … arriving tomorrow (oh no!). The app suggests reminding me with a notification to return tomorrow.

After putting the mangos in my shopping basket, the app shows me that I need to place 5 more orders to get our reward. I decide not to do this. Getting to 6 products in 10 minutes would simply result in me buying too much useless crap. Elsewhere we noticed that even though I was promised 6 free orders, the maximum refund is 50 RMB.

The main screen of Duo Duo Earn a Fortune shows a notification. Clicking on it I’m told that I can get notified that I can get a 50 RMB cash-back in WeChat if I place an order. I’m getting a headache … how does this relate to the 6 free orders? 

The Duo Duo Earn a Fortune screen had a lot more options and is quite frankly rather overwhelming. I decided not to try them all. The mechanics of the games and rewards tends to be the same across the app and there is a lot of overlap with Shake Money and Sign-in Beans.

I put my phone aside, telling myself I will continue my exploration tomorrow. That night I dream of cats, hong bao, beans, coins and cat food. But despite these warnings of a near mental breakdown I would be back on the app the next day, growing trees and raising cows