Mind Games

26 Oct
October 26, 2011

Well now. This is interesting, isn’t it? A new indie bundle deal has arrived on the scene, and it brings with it a cunning sales trick.

Now, you all know that I’m on the side of my indie bros. Being an indie is tough, you’re the scrappy underdog fighting for every bit of attention you can get, every sale you make is meaningful and appreciated. But this…this is kinda like gamification. It’s a little…evil.

Not very evil, don’t get me wrong. Just a tad evil. It’s a Jedi with a few more Dark Side points than Light Side. It’s taking advantage of a simple psychological trick to increase sales. The price starts low, but every sale they make (potentially) increases that price, and visibly so. Which adds the mental goad of feeling that you should get it now, if you want it, before the price increases. So people all rush to get it, but that just accelerates the upward pressure on the price.

But there’s more! The site offers an opportunity for heroism. If you give more than the standard, you can bring the price down for everyone else, and get your name up on the front page to boot! Champion! Which is not a bad thing, really, it just feels like they’re ‘gaming’ your charitable streak a bit, doesn’t it?

Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s a rather clever tactic, and possibly the natural progression of the Humble Bundle’s ticking countdown timer. And as an indie you need to find new and novel ways to stand out and draw attention amid the triple-A PR campaigns. But my worry is that people will start to feel manipulated, just a little. Maybe I’m over-thinking it, I’ve been wrong before. Maybe the extremely generous price for a bundle of high quality games is more than compensation for a little bit of psychological tomfoolery. I initially thought people would burn out on frequent Steam sales, but from all accounts they are a smashing success. My own 25-game backlog of titles I bought on sale attests to that.

But still. I worry. In these days, when publishers are carving strips from their games to sell to you as premium DLC, or as deterrent against buying 2nd-hand, might gamers grow tired of people attempting to push their buttons in one way or the other?

1 reply
  1. Martin says:

    I figure I might as well throw out my comments here, if for no other reason than it’s more interesting than the work I can at this moment look at but not do, cos I’m waiting for stuff.

    Anyway… there’s a level at which I really approve of this, in much the same way as I approve of survival of the fittest. I don’t like it on a personal level… I’d hate to see a pet hunted down by a bigger and tougher pet, and likewise I’d hate to see a friend or family member being gamed by a clever advertising trick.

    But at a social, species-wide level I like to see this kind of stuff. I frankly like it when stupid people are tricked to their detriment. It makes socio-economic space for smarter people to flourish in, and if there’s one thing our species definitely needs, it’s a steadily increasing percentage of people who occasionally stop and think about things.

    Population growth… generally a bad thing… slows down as people become more educated. Automation increases… sucky if you’re a badly-educated blue-collar worker in the industry being automated, a good thing if you’re practically anyone else. Wars become less likely as people realise fighting with words rather than bombs and things is ultimately a lot more productive and involves less innards being let out. The standard of life increases as people actually understand things like reciprocal altruism, or the benefits of washing hands and throwing litter in the bin. And so on.

    And ultimately I also like it because the more complicated and tricksy a concept like a clever advertising mechanism becomes (or a big brother monitoring system, or a tax infrastructure, etc), the easier it becomes for a sufficiently clever person to find an exploit 😉

    People wanna protect their kids in the bold new world… frickin’ educate them.


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