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How to price the perfect offer

by Michael Moran on 11/19/20 02:33:00 pm

The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.

 

So you want your users buying. You want your game economy functioning like a well-oiled machine, and you want your profits flying so high that when they look down, all they see is sky.

Guess what? It’s possible. 

And it all comes down to how much you know. Have you been doing your homework, getting to know your playerbase? Have you been scouring the depths of the world-wide web to find the truth behind when -- and why -- they actually pull the purchase trigger?

We’ve already given you the lowdown for the psychology of nailing your in-game offers -- but ladies and gentlemen, that was just the tip of the iceberg. A drop in the bucket. The raw dough, before we get to the sauce and the cheese and, yeah, the cooking. 

So if you’re ready to take the next step with us -- if you’re ready to level-up your knowledge, your skillset, and your selling power -- then keep on reading. Because now, we’re getting into the good stuff.

The sauce. 

The pricing sauce. 

That’s weird.

Whatever.

How do you get your users hooked, so they’re clicking “Buy Now” before they even know their thumbs are moving? How do you get your users thinking the way you want them thinking about the price-points, using only the art of framing? And how do you guide your users down the path you’ve so generously hand-crafted for them -- right into the belly of the (in-game offer) beast? 

It’s all here. It’s all waiting. 

And if you stay by our side, it’ll be yours. The knowledge, tips, the tricks -- yours. So get ready. Get set. And get fired up. Because the sauce, the secret sauce, behind your game’s functioning is about to get injected with insight, action, and energy. 

And that’s the kind of thing your users can’t help but respond to. 

The Hook

Before you get into molding the pricing -- before you even give your pricing one measly thought -- your brain should have figured out The Hook. The what? The Hook. 

Listen up.

Your users aren’t dumb. They know that most things that they use, most digital applications that they interact with, want something back from them. They’re not just there to give them a pleasurable escape -- they want to keep their money. Their hard-earned money. 

Which means you need to be working in overdrive to convince them that you’re not just a cash grab. You’re not just a generic game that’ll take their dollars and run, and you’re not just a boring app that they’ll regret downloading and buying into.

What you are is a game that captivates. You’re a game that surprises, that pulls out all the stops, and that knows how to keep its users on the edge of their seats. 

The Hook is where you convince them of that. It’s the opening that’s free of logistics and offers, where users can get an uninterrupted feel for what, exactly, they can expect. It’s where the game story begins, where they get their first taste of action, and where they get their first release of dopamine

The Hook must reel them in. 

Because once they’re in, once they believe that your game is the real deal, they won’t look at your offers with apprehension or annoyance. They won’t presume that you’re only there to take their money. Instead, they’ll see your offers as opportunities -- opportunities to improve their game experience. 

And that’s when you hit them with your perfectly crafted pricing. 

Summary: No user is going to spend their hard-earned cash without first knowing whether they like the game experience. Wow them with The Hook -- and then give them the opportunity to buy in.

The Currencies

The smartest games are the games that have their economies set up to accept two different currencies: hard currency, AKA real money, and soft currency, AKA game money. Why?

Think of it like this: only 2-7% of your users ever have the intention to drop money in your game. But part of the allure of gameplay is earning, improving, and participating in all that the world has to offer -- so how do you captivate the other 93-98%? How do you keep them coming back, excited, and stimulated?

You give them ways to earn soft currency. Whether it’s beating a certain opponent or finding a certain artifact, giving them actionable steps to accumulate wealth is how you make them want to try harder -- and want to buy into the game. (See the Reciprocity tactic here.) 

Ready to get even deeper into their psyches? When you give them ways to earn, craft the earnings so they’re never where they have to be in order for the user to actually get the offer they want. 

Example: if an offer for the best ability boost is $3.50, give them $2.95 in earnings. Just close enough to be meaningful, but not close enough to give them what they want. Frustrating! Especially for users who are used to immediate gratification. With the boost so close to them -- so easy to make theirs -- they’ll feel the pull to invest the 55 cent difference. 

The point? To get them over the hump of making that first purchase -- because once they’ve bought in, and deemed it worth it, they’ll be less apprehensive to do it again. 

Summary: Integrate two different currencies (hard & soft) into your game to keep every user stimulated -- and use your soft currency to whet their appetites for what’s possible by investing their real money.

Anchoring

Those were some foundational points -- feel grounded? No? Well pull it together, because we’re heading into the fancy stuff. The pricing. 

How do you set your prices? How do you frame them so your users think they’re snatching up a great, must-not-miss deal?

That’s where anchoring comes in. Give it your warmest welcome, because it might just change your life. Or, you know, your business. So… what is it? It’s the strategy that has you visually conveying to your users that they won’t find a better deal, intensifying the urgency they have to buy in -- and buy in fast. 

Here’s how it works: say it’s an offer you’ve thrown out a few times before, like the ability to fly. If you price the offer at $4 the first time, and $4 the second time, there might not be many bites. But when the third time comes around -- what if you hit them with $4 $2? 

UserWise LiveOps

 

They’ll think: whoah, what a steal -- who knows the next time I’ll get to fly for so cheap? Add in a TODAY ONLY banner above the price, and you’re upping the urgency that much more. 

Want to employ this strategy without lowering the prices you had in mind for your offers? Easy -- work backwards. 

Start by figuring out the ‘true rate’ of the offer -- something reasonable, but something still profitable. Then multiply it by 2, or 3, or 4. Use the higher rates earlier on, knowing that they won’t attract many of your users, but then, once your users are further into the game, further hooked, and further ready to act -- you pull out the true rate. 

And in comparison, it sure does look sweet.

Summary: Anchoring is the hard-hitting strategy that compares an offer’s old price to its lower price today -- inciting users to identify the bargain, feel the urgency, and buy in before it’s too late.

 

Clustering

Here’s the thing: your users don’t want to do work. Sure, when it comes to their game experience, they’ll exert all of the effort necessary in order to kick ass -- but when it comes to understanding offers, and buying into them? No sir. No way. It’s like they forget how to read.

Knowing that, you should be doing everything in your power to make the offer process simple. You should be paying attention to every element -- the visuals, the messaging, the check-out -- and you should be working to streamline them into one easy breath of fresh air. 

One way to turn your offers into a day at the spa? Clustering. It relies on the art of the bundle in order to do the work for your users. Here’s how it works:

Instead of throwing one offer after another out at them, you curate a bundle of items/abilities/power boosts into one offer -- so your users are only pulled out of the game once. Make the offer breaks less frequent, and they’ll be less burdensome to the players. 

Not only does this require less paused playtime, but it also requires less reading. Less effort to figure out what the hell this offer will actually do for their gaming, and less thinking about -- hey, will this be something I regret 15 minutes from now? 

The key is, you give them a bundle that paints a clear picture. The big picture. Example A -- they’re heading into a battle, and you release this offer: 

LIMITED TIME UPGRADE: BATTLE-READY PACKAGE. Sword Boost (turns any dagger into lethal sword), First Aid Boost (heals 3 injuries), and Night Vision Boost (see through the darkness). FULL PACKAGE, $6.

All three of those items work together to increase your user’s chance of victory -- and they can see that. Immediately. And while if you’d offered them up one at a time, they’d likely never go for buying every one -- when you bundle them altogether, making only one ‘purchase’ click necessary, it seems far less offensive. And far more big-picture valuable.

And now, since we’re already on the glamor and grace of bundling, let’s veer right into…

Summary: The less work you make your users do when it comes to in-game offers, the better. Clustering helps you keep things simple -- and drives more action as a result.

Decoy Effect

Time to get sneaky. 

Decoy effect is the tactic of using other, related offers as decoys -- to get your users ready to pounce on the offer you want them to pounce on. Confused? Overwhelmed by the double use of “pounce”? We’ll break it down.

Imagine an offer that flashes onto your user’s screen as soon as they’ve reached the entrance to the kingdom. They know that inside the kingdom, they’ll have to defeat a handful of rivals -- and then, BOOM -- the offer. 

Well, it’s actually three different offers, wrapped into one pop-up. Take a look:

  • Offer 1: Map of the Kingdom, $1.50
  • Offer 2: Royal Sword, $4.50
  • Offer 3: Map & Sword, $4.50

Similar to our clustering tactic, the decoy effect relies on the idea of bundling to achieve success. But what’s different here is -- the bundle isn’t the only option. It’s just the best option. (To your users’ rational thinking, anyway.)

If you’re a user, what do you instinctively see about these three offers? You see that Offer 3 packs the biggest punch value-wise, and also isn’t any more expensive than the single Royal Sword. So, if you were originally only interested in buying the map, you’re now thinking -- I can get the map and the sword for the same price as just the sword. That’s a deal. 

Notice the magic? Simply by strategically picking the prices you lay next to each other, you’re able to incite the exact reaction you want. By making your users feel the value, and allowing them to instantaneously rationalize the spend, you’re hitting the mark for increased purchases. 

Ah, the beauty of subconscious impulses.

Summary: Decoy effect is the tactic that uses multiple offers -- displayed at once -- to get your users choosing the offer you want them to choose based on perceived value. Psychological strategy at its best.  

Start small

Now we’re getting into a little something called loyalty. That urge that users feel pushing them back to something familiar -- something they’ve already established as good? As valuable to their experience?

That’s what we’re trying to create. And every perfectly-priced offer is a step in the right direction.

As we touched on a bit earlier, it’s way, way easier to get a user to purchase again than it is to get them to purchase that first time. Once they’ve crossed the line into a paying customer -- and they’ve enjoyed the boost in gameplay that resulted -- they’re more connected. To the game, to the world, and to the experience.

And they’re going to want to maintain that connection -- until you give them reason not to. 

So how do you achieve that loyalty? How do you get them over the line that first time? You build out your pricing with the understanding that you’re playing the long-game. You’re not just in it for the one-and-done -- a user spending $5 one time is nowhere near as lucrative as a user spending bits and pieces over the course of months (and yes, we’ll say it: years). 

But you already know that. 

What you might not know is how to reflect it in your pricing. Don’t worry -- we’ve got you. The industry’s best-kept secret? Start small. 

Don’t throw out offers that overwhelm your users, and don’t throw out offers that include more items, capabilities, or boosts than they could possibly need or want in the early stages. Keep things mellow. Keep them succinct. Reel them in. 

And then, once they’ve spent some pocket change on a necessary offer and derived real value from it, you’ve got them. You’re able to offer them more -- more items, abilities, and boosts -- at higher price tags. 

Base your offers on what they’ve already interacted with. Did they buy a power boost? They know what it’ll add to their gameplay now -- so offer them a multi-pack of power boosts. Did they get their hands on a new dagger, only to have it break in battle? Offer them a set of 8 new ones -- or one stronger, upleveled weapon to use in its wake. 

When you keep them engaged and offer things with real, specific value, they’ll keep buying in. And the more they buy in, the less apprehension they’ll have to buy in again. So use that loyalty to your advantage. Hook them -- and then keep them around, always wanting more. 

Summary: Once a user’s made a purchase, it takes far less persuading to get them to buy in again. Reel them in with small offers -- and then once they feel game loyalty, up the offer size (and price-tag). 

Messaging

Simple, easy, and effective.

We’re talking about what your offer messaging should be, obviously, but we’re also talking about the process of actually getting that messaging into place. Here’s the 3-step breakdown:

  • Get Personal. Use your offers’ messaging to let your users know you’re speaking directly to them. Have they purchased once before? Make them a “Gold Buyer” -- and have a banner saying as much on top of the offer. (Gold Buyer Deal!) Are they new to the game? Call out “Limited Time Rookie Offer” below the price. When your users feel like they’re being targeted -- like the game’s looking out for them -- they’ll feel more motivated to act.

Also: by giving them identifiers like “Gold Buyer” or “Platinum Player,” you’re giving them a title they’ll want to hold onto. Because of that, they’ll be more likely to do the things required to keep it -- i.e. spending money on offers. (Further this by having a Title Description Card at the beginning of every game session -- so they know what it takes to hold onto their VIP status.) 

  • Keep It Minimal. Style-wise, yeah, we’re always shooting for minimal -- by now we all know that the less work your users have to do, the better. But we’re also applying this to the commitments you’re asking of them. According to research (and you know we love research), users are significantly more likely to buy in when the parameters are much less demanding. See here:

You offer a user the ability to fly for the rest of the game session. The price is $5. 

OR, you offer a user the ability to fly by the minute. The price is $25 cents per minute. 

The second option requires a far lower commitment from the user’s end, letting them rationalize that -- hey, if I don’t like it, I can stop. Minimal parameters make it easier for them to buy in, and odds are, they won’t even reduce the total amount spent.

  • Ramp it Up. Here’s where our friend immediate gratification comes into play. Your users want -- no, need -- to know that their investment is going to pay off. And that it’s going to pay off quickly. Your messaging can promise them that -- and even motivate them to realize what’s at stake if they don’t act. 

Add “instant,” “immediate,” or “right away” into your offers’ messaging, and you’ll up the value, the urgency, and the pull of the offer. Take this one: “Buy the Shield Now & Add an Instant Layer of Protection” -- we can clearly understand the value, know when it’s available to us, and visualize what we won’t be -- safe -- if we don’t buy in. 

Mold your offer messaging to play into the human needs and impulses your users have, and, when combined with on-point pricing, you’ll be able to get them dancing to whatever tune you choose. Oh -- the power!

Summary: The messaging of your offer -- combined with its pricing -- has the capacity to make or break your sales. Keep things personalized, short & sweet, and urgent -- and you’ll see the results.

Value Alignment

In today’s day and age, users are moved to action by brands, products, and yes -- games, that reflect their own values. You know what else people are moved by? Getting the chance to carry out acts of kindness.

So be the force that lets them do it. 

How?

Offer bundles that include extra items or boosts sent to other players in need. Example: A Health Boost Bundle -- the user who made the purchase receives 3 Healing Boosts, and the fourth Healing Boost goes to the next player on their team who gets injured. 

Not only does this make the user feel philanthropic -- and good -- but it also fosters a deeper sense of in-game camaraderie, and thus reciprocity. And thus thus, more overall spending.

Other options? Take the charitable drive beyond the game -- and give your users offers that promise to send $1 to an organization or initiative that the game’s partnered with. So, if the Invisibility Cloak you’re offering is $5, make it clear that $1 of the price-tag is for the World Hunger Relief Fund. 

Even if they don’t choose to buy in and donate, they’ll know that your game is making it possible for donations to happen -- and they’ll think higher of you for it. And remember: liking the game, and feeling loyal to it, breeds action. 

Summary: People like giving back -- and they like brands (and games!) that give back even more. Show them your philanthropic side and they’ll take notice. And feel even better about investing in you. 

Some Final Notes

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how you strategize to optimize. It’s one thing to figure out what the people want -- it’s a whole other ballgame to get down and dirty with determining the right price. 

So we hope -- genuinely, from the bottom of our hearts -- that this little-big rundown has armed you with more of that much-needed knowledge. We hope that it’s given you the energy you need to tackle your tactics, the confidence you need to start thinking bigger, and the momentum you need to capture your users’ interest -- and pocket-change -- sustainably. 

Because remember: you’re playing the long-game. 

And if there’s one thing we know, it’s this: top-tier insight, expert-backed tips & tricks, and real-world use-cases are the key to you taking your selling power from meh... 

To YEH! 

Thanks for joining us today -- but we’ll see you back here before you know it. That’s right -- the learning, the earning, the growing? It’s not done yet. Not even close.

So use today’s lesson to drive some change -- but get ready for what comes next. Because we’re ready to keep you climbing up the stairs of success. And we’re pretty sure you’re not saying “uncle” yet.

 

This piece was part 2 of our 3 part series on building in-game offers. Additional articles will be released at the UserWise Blog soon. The original article can be found here.

You can also follow me on LinkedIn to get daily mobile game tips.

Until next time...


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