One of the best books I read last year was Payoff: The Hidden Logic that Shapes our Motivation by Dan Ariely and I wrote about how to apply some of Ariely’s idea to improving your team’s motivation. In addition to showing how to improve employee’s motivation, Ariely’s book also has lessons that can be applied to increasing the motivation of players to engage more with your game.
Make it challenging
The first insight is that people are often motivated to achieve things that are “difficult, challenging, and even painful.” Moreover, it they work harder and put in more effort, they enjoy a greater sense of ownership what they create and enjoy it more than if it is given to them.
Give people ownership
The second key to motivating players is to help them feel like owners of the content. In Ariely’s research, he had one group of people create origami creatures. He then offered to sell the origamis both to a group that was not involved in building them and to their creators. It turned out that the builders were willing to pay five times more for their handmade creations than the buyers were. As Ariely wrote, “our participants’ behavior clearly revealed that we are strongly motivated by identity, the need for recognition, a sense of accomplishment, and feeling of creation. “
The early invest express (invest your time and express yourself) games, such as Farmville and Hay Day, leveraged this motivation by allowing people to build their own farms. Since it was theirs, people would spend significant sums to keep and improve it. Even today, Clash of Clans and other games allow players to build their own forts or cities and this drives more engagement and monetization.
Create a long-term perspective
The final lesson from Ariely’s book is to create a long-term perspective. Rather than give people a one-time or short-term experience, players are most motivated if they have a long-term vision. Players would not bother putting a lot of energy into a short-term relationship, as Ariely writes, “whether with a romantic partner, employer, colleague, or apartment. But if you think of that relationship as a long-term investment, then you will be motivated to deposit more of your love, trust, energy, and time. This sense of investment is the basis of the marriage vow, and it is the basis of true dedication and loyalty….”
If you look at what turned social casino from a small niche part of the social game space to one of the largest is when they evolved from discrete slots experiences to a long-term meta-game where the goal was to continue unlocking content and progressing. This progression created a long-term perspective that motivates players to engage (and spend) more.
Another example would be the match-3 space. Bejeweled Blitz is a brilliant match-3 game. It is expertly designed for many exciting moments and perfect game balancing. Yet it never monetized as its creators had hoped (other than helping get the company sold to EA for about $1 billion). King entered the space with yet another match-3 game, Candy Crush Saga, but one that had a long-term goal, as you continuously wanted to progress. Candy Crush was able to transform an industry where customers were not motivated to spend to one of the most profitable in the mobile game space.
Motivation is critical
The better motivated your players, the more they will enjoy your game. The more they enjoy it, the more engaged they will be. And with engagement comes a successful product.
- The first key to motivation is make it challenging.
- The second key to motivating players is to give them a sense of ownership.
- The final key to motivating players is give them a long-term perspective, not a one-off game play experience.