I want to share some thoughts from the first day of the Behavioral Decision Research in Management Conference (BDRM). There were several interesting presentations that have relevance for the social game space.
- Do not make decisions too quickly. In the social game space, many executives feel it is a show of their skills to make decisions quickly. In Frank Partnoy’s research, it is clear that better decisions are made with some delay. In fact, the ability to delay is what distinguishes social game executives from animals.
- More competitors equals less competition. People are more competitive in “small-n” conditions, which means with a smaller number of other players. For example, if you have two people playing against each other they will be much more competitive than where you are playing against 36. Moreover, in a situation where there are only a few competitors, people will behave more competitively than if there are many players. This helps explain why Pop Song works so well as a competitive game, and why traditional social games rely more on cooperation.
- Information increases trust. Players will show more trust with more information. This phenomenon can be applied to how players interact with other players (give them more info on what the other players are doing and they are more likely to trust the other player more) and can probably be extended to your company’s relationship with the players.
- You need to be in the top echelon to affect your chances of winning. People cannot accurately assess their real chances of winning, which is a function of skills, number of competitors, and how many winners there will be. Thus, only those who are very close to winning will take steps to improve their odds (as everyone else feels they have already lost). In our space, that means if you have leaderboards, they will only help monetize the few players near the top. Thus, you need more granular leaderboards or to use different monetization strategies depending on players’ rankings.
- You may not be an expert. People actually think they are “experts” but actually have a skill level closer to amateurs. This was shown in a study of chess masters, whose skills were actually comparable to regular players. If you think you are an expert, you need to look objectively at your skillset and take a step back before making a decision based on your “expertise.”
- Perceived variety is great but don’t complicate. People prefer to have more perceived variety (more monetization options) but too much variety will confuse customers and dissuade them from monetizing. It is imperative to give the impression of multiple options but present them in a way that allows players to understand easily their options.
- Visual options are better with few options but written is better with many choices. It is best to present players with pictures if there is a limited number of options; however, if you are providing many options, a list or other text-based display will be more effective in optimizing players’ monetization.
- People get stuck on unimportant decisions. Players do not expect to spend much time on trivial decisions and become paralyzed if they are forced to; in other words, they are willing to make that commitment for a more “important” decision. You need to ensure that most of the decisions in your games (and let’s face it most will be trivial) allow the player to make their decision easily so they do not get frustrated and leave the game.
These are my key takeaways from Day One. Early next week, I plan on posting what I pick up at the rest of the conference.
One last thing. I forgot how beautiful Colorado is. Just driving between the airport, hotel and conference, it is one of the prettiest places I have been. I remember one week when I was at Disney I visited Paris, Madrid, London, Amsterdam, Warsaw and Munich (yes, in one week) and nothing on that trip matched the beauty I have seen in Colorado.