5 psychological monetisation tricks that mobile games use

Big game companies hire psychologists. This is a well-established fact, but it does garner the question as to why?

1 — Foot in the door, hand in the wallet

Psychologically, most people are not thrilled with spending money on anything, Just think back to when you made your first purchase on Amazon, or Steam. It probably took a lot of thought before you took the plunge, but once you were in that second purchase was a lot easier.

Data from Moonlit Beshimov

2 — The decoy effect/price anchoring

The in-game purchases you make are affected by the surrounding purchase items on the screen. If you’re offered the choice of buying a large coffee for £5 or a small coffee for £2, you’ll buy what you want. If we added a medium coffee in for £4.50, you’ll probably ignore the small and, in all likelihood, go for the large because it feels like a good deal. That medium size was a decoy, and it works darn well.

3 — Currency distancing

This is the practice of using a fake fictional currency which you often purchase with real money or earn in-game. This fake currency is then used to buy in-game content like cosmetics, power-ups, or even card packs if we’re talking about something like Magic The Gathering: Arena.

4 — Loss aversion

People hate losing something more than they like gaining it. In other words, psychologically, it feels worse to lose $5 than it feels good to gain $5. Studies like the prospect theory suggest that the pain of loss is twice as significant as the joy of gain, and mobile games use this fact all the time.

5 — Reciprocity

This one hooks into the very dominant social parts of our brain. In short, if someone gives you something then you feel like you have to give something back. In the mobile game world that means buying in-app content.

  1. I know daily quests give me gems, the premium currency that I’d have to pay to get otherwise.
  2. I sign in every day, making the game into a habit and increasing my chances of eventually spending money.
  3. I get a few of these gem packs and feel pretty lucky and happy every time the game gives me easy quests. It’s practically gifting me the gems at this point!
  4. I don’t manage a quest one day but I really want to open more packs… The game has given me so many gems at this point, and I play it every day. What’s the harm in giving back?
  5. I make my first purchase, and suddenly I see myself as a paying customer. They have their foot in the door and I’m probably going to be a high lifetime value customer.

Wrapping it up

Years upon years of studying human behaviour places psychologists in the perfect position to manipulate behaviour if they want to. Plenty of games don’t use these practices, but these tricks are so effective that businesses find it hard to say “no”.

Founder of Admix | In-play monetization https://admixplay.com