(Below is an unedited manuscript snippet of my upcoming book, Actionable Gamification: Beyond Points, Badges, and Leaderboards. Please subscribe to the mailing list on the right to order the book when it becomes available. This post may be removed after a certain period of time).
Dangling and Anchor Juxtaposition: Monetization in Social Games
Many social games on the market also use Core Drive 6: Scarcity & Impatience (one of the Black Hat Core Drives) to monetize heavily. Often times it’s a combination of Anchore Juxtaposition (Game Technique #69) and Dangling (Game Technique #44).
For instance, when you go on a game like Farmville, you initially may think, “This game is somewhat intriguing, but I would never pay real money for a stupid game like this.”
Then, Farmville implements Dangling and regularly shows you a mansion that you want, but can’t have. The first few times, you just dismiss it, as you inherently know it wouldn’t be resource-efficient to get it.
But eventually, you start to develop some desire of the mansion that’s constantly dangling there. Just from a tad of curiosity, you do a little research and see that the game requires 20 more hours of play before you can afford to get the mansion through game currency.
Wow, that’s a lot of farming! But then, you see that you could just spend $5.00 and get that very mansion immediately.
$5 to save 20 hours of my time? That’s a no-brainer!
Now the user is no longer paying $5 to buy some pixels on her screen. She is spending $5 to save her time, which becomes a phenomenal deal. You see how game design can mess around with peoples’ value systems?
The very strange phenomenon here, is that most of these games can be played for free; however, people are spending money so they could play less of the game. That’s the odd nature of Scarcity & Impatience.
Scarce but not Screwed
An important factor to consider when using Dangling is the pathway to obtaining the reward. You have to allow the user to know that it’s very challenging to get the reward, but not impossible.
If it is perceived as impossible, then people turn on their Core Drive 8: Loss & Avoidance modes and go into self-denial. “It’s probably for losers anyway.”
For example, if you see an exclusive organization dangled in front of you, but then you see the prerequisite to join is that you have to be a Prince or Princess through royal blood, you might not even look at what the organization does, but may just think, “Who cares about a bunch of stuck up, spoiled brats?”
There is no motivation, and in fact, it activates Core Drive 8 as an Anti-Core Drive – the drive to NOT participate.
However, if the sign said, “Only Princes/Princess OR people who have previously ran a marathon can join.” Now you are motivated, and might even ponder in your head the work required to run a marathon.
As long as there is a realistic chance, the Scarcity and exclusivity itself is enough to engage your mind. The interesting thing is, you still haven’t even figured out what the organization actually does! Without any information on the function-focused, the human-focused motivation of Scarcity is motivating you towards running a marathon.
The Powers of Anchor Juxtaposition
This leads to a game technique I call Anchor Juxtaposition, where you place two options side by side: one that costs money, and the other that requires a great amount of effort towards the Desired Actions that benefit the system.
For example, a site could say, “You have two options to get this reward: 1. Pay us $20 right now, or 2. Commit a ridiculous amount of Desired Actions such as “Invite your friends,” “Upload photos,” “stay on the site for 30 days in a row.”
When that happens, you will see many users irrationally engaging in the Desired Actions, because they feel like doing the Desired Actions is like earning money. You’ll see users slaving away for dozens or even hundreds of hours, just so they could save the $20. At one point, many of them would realize that it’s a lot of time and work, and at that point, the $20 purchase option becomes more appealing and they end up purchasing that. Now your users have done both: paid you money, and committed a great deal of Desired Actions. It is worth reminding here again that rewards can be physical, emotional, or intellectual.
Rewards don’t have to be a financial reward, nor does it need to be a badge (people hardly pay for those). In fact, based on Core Drive 3: Empowerment of Creativity & Feedback principles, the most effective rewards are often times Boosters that allow the user to go back into the ecosystem and play more effectively, which becomes a streamlined activity loop. With Anchor Juxtaposition, you must have two options for the user. If you simply put a price on the reward and say, “Pay now, or go away.” Many users will go back to the CD8 Denial mode and think, “I’m never gonna pay those greedy bastards a single dollar!” and leave.
However, if you just put on your site, “Hey! Please do all these Desired Actions, such as invite your friends and complete your profile!” users often don’t feel any motivation to do those activities because they clearly recognize it as being beneficial for the system, but not for themselves (“Yes, but what do I get from it?”).
Only when you put those two options together (hence Juxtaposition), do people become more open to both options, and often times commit to doing both consecutively. But does this work in the real world, outside of games? You bet.
Dropbox is a File Hosting Service company based in San Francisco that has obtained extraordinary popularity and success.
When you first sign-up to Dropbox, it tells you that you could either 1. Pay to get a lot of storage space, or 2. Invite your friends to get more space. At the beginning, most people started inviting their friends (as well as complete a small list of Desired Actions). Eventually, many of those users who are committing the Desired Actions decide that inviting/harassing their friends is a lot of work, but they still need a lot of space, and they end up paying. Again, because of the Anchor Juxtaposition, users commit both the Desired Action, and pay for the full product, just like I did.
Dropbox’s viral design, along with a great seamless product, accelerated the company to reportedly raise over $300 Million with a valuation that is around $10 Billion and revenues above $200 Million in 2013. Not too shabby for a company that didn’t exist seven years prior.