Interest is the primary motivator behind your target audience spending their money playing your game instead of spending it somewhere else. Interest isn’t everything, you want to turn their interest into a habit. This can be the difference between someone spending a few dollars or even a few hundred dollars on your game. You have to make an interesting game, but if you want to make more money you have to get your users hooked
You’ve got an interesting game, now what?
Let us go forward assuming that you have people interested in your new and unique game, but you want to turn that interest into something more. How do you accomplish this? What drives people to do anything? A well noted behaviorist B.F. Skinner demonstrated several behavioral manipulation techniques used today. Many companies use these tricks to get users to hand over more and more cash for less and less and you can too.
What does B.F. Skinner have to do with making games?
To start out we need to explain a little about Skinners experiments. Skinner took a rat and placed the mischievous little rodent in a box with a lever. The lever was linked to a chute that would expel food tablets every time it was pulled. Eventually the rat discovered this and made a quick meal using the lever whenever he desired. The rat formed an association with the lever and food. Previously the lever was nothing and now it was good. This is called positive reinforcement. In terms of gaming the user is the rat, the game is the lever, and the reward is leveling up or obtaining a greater degree of expertise. You need to sufficiently reward your users with digital goods and promoting their status within a community to keep them playing.
But wait that’s not all!
Skinner took his experiment further and developed what is now called scheduled reinforcements. Skinner changed the mechanics of the box; the lever now only produced food after every few pulls. The rat discovered this too and was happily pressing the lever five, six, seven or more times to receive his reward! The rat was perfectly content to press the lever a few extra times knowing that it what it would produce food. Not unlike the rat, your target audience will be willing to spend more and more time and money pressing that lever to achieve that reward.
How do you cash in on this phenomenon?
The most popular method is to have varied level gain. What does that mean? It means each level takes more time and energy to obtain. I’m sure you’ve noticed it playing a game. The first few levels seem easy to get and you get a small thrill from the growth of your little avatar. Soon you notice its taking longer to obtain levels, but you don’t mind because what lies ahead is even better than the lower levels you’ve already obtained. You want more. Reward users who obtain high ranks with virtual goods and abilities. That can only be used when they’ve obtained a sufficient rank and they’ll pull that lever as long as it takes to get there.
One last tip you say?
Why not, good things often come in threes. Skinner wasn’t through with just the two experiment parameters. Skinner took his experimenting to the extremes when he adjusted the lever to produce food at random times and for random durations. What was the result of this experiment? The rat spent every waking moment pressing the lever waiting for its reward. You see this experience in video games with limited one time offers and promotional events. Where you have to log in within a certain period of time, or obtain X before Y time is up. This is a great way to spur activity among users who want to gain an edge or are compelled to have the latest and greatest things.