Psychology and micropayments

Ha, there, got that Oscars rant off my chest…

So I’m temporarily tired of Minecraft PE (the world is still fun to run around in mining and stuff, and I have lots of pictures to maybe eventually take and post again someday, but I don’t have any compelling New Project ideas at the moment), and WoW (there’s always lots to do there, but it doesn’t draw me at the moment, all seeming sort of same-same), so for my anti-social time the other night I downloaded a random free “app” for my “iPad”: “Eternity Warriors 2“.

It’s free, in that it doesn’t cost anything to buy, and you can play through the first few levels with just the armor and weapons and “coins” and “jewels” that you get for free or find lying around the dungeons or get after killing monsters (the usually amusing trope that some giant spider might be carrying around a nice pair of plate-armor gloves).

And then if you are me and you look further along in the Store, you notice that there are alot of things that cost lots of “jewels”, and that “jewels” cost significant Real Money. I did a little math and figured that buying a nice tough suit of armor and weapons to match would cost between US$50 and US$100 (real-live real-world money), and thought “haha I am too wise to do that, so I will just enjoy whatever happens if I don’t pay money.”

But these people are smarter than that! What happens if you don’t pay money up front is that you have fun killing lots of slightly-tougher monsters using the slightly-better weapons and armor that you find, and then suddenly you die.

owie

You die because suddenly there’s a big monster that does lots of damage.

And after you die, the game pauses, and offers you the chance to “revive”.

And reminds you that if you don’t revive, you will lose everything you’ve so far gained on that level.

And tells you how many jewels it will cost to revive.

And, if you don’t happen to have that many jewels left, will kindly give you a convenient button to buy more, right there, so as to come to life again!

Which means that, having decided not to spend lots of money on the game in the store in advance, you are now offered the chance to spend a relatively small amount of money, right when your mental defenses are weakest.

Because you’ve been fighting monsters, so your adrenaline and heart rate are high, and you’ve just died, so you’re feeling vulnerable and angry and frustrated, and here is the chance to undo that dying by spending just a little money and maybe for a second you wonder hm is the price per jewel that they are offering me here really a good investment all things considered but then your id is all OH PUSH THE BUTTON WE DIED AND IF YOU PUSH THE BUTTON WE CAN FIGHT THE MONSTERS SOME MORE so you push the button.

Ages ago I was into Magic the Gathering for awhile (I think I collected a complete set of one of the expansions (and naturally it turned out that that was the expansion that having a complete set of was like the least valuable of all of the expansions)), and I noticed that they were very clever, selling you a game like a dollar or two at a time, seems very cheap, but then if you sat down and added it all up you would discover that you’d paid like US$75 (or more) for this silly game and if you’d seen it in the store for that much you would never have bought it.

Eternity Warriors 2 (and this flying-airplanes game Steel Storm or something that I bought awhile back, if to a lesser extent, and I’m sure hundreds of other “apps” in the general “freemium” category) takes this bit of psychological trickery to another level, by offering their many small-looking buying opportunities at times when your rational mind is more or less turned off, and your reptilian mind is in the lead, willing to push whatever button is sitting there on the screen IN THE WAY OF KILLING MORE MONSTERS KILL KILL KILL.

Which is damnably clever, and has fooled me into buying a few jewels now myself.

I am reminded of an old Internet Naughty Story from like the 90’s which explored this concept, only with slightly larger payments, and with sex rather than violence (and which impressively I was able to find on the web):

“If you liked that,” she said quietly, her voice melodious, “you’ll love our Adult Classics I series. And for a limited time you can get it for just twenty-nine ninety-five.” She took her left breast in her hand and raised the nipple to my lips, “Would you like that?” she whispered, “Would you like it right now?”

I’m sure that’s not the only story that’s explored that as an SF concept.

Maybe it’s a good thing that the Apple Store doesn’t allow Adult Content…

Anyway, I am off to play more Eternity Warriors 2 for a few minutes. I will of course resist any attempts to get me to spend money, now that I’ve figured out how I’ve been exploited.

Of course!

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