Pay what you want! - using gamification to decide how much it will be

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Anyone that thinks that gamification is something that made an appearance in the last few years is very wrong. Gamification has been around for a very long time indeed, though we've been using different names to describe it. I won’t go into detail about this matter in this article, but what I’m getting at is that you can find gamification in many different places and in many different ways. So, I usually keep my eyes open for interesting applications and last week I found something worth writing about.

A friend of mine studies IT and posts some interesting things from time to time. He recently he posted on Facebook a link to an ‘Incredible iOS 9 developer bundle’. The best part about this bundle? Pay what you want. ‘So no fixed price?’, you might wonder? Indeed! You can pay anything you like. At least, that is what they have you think. With clever use of gamification, UX/UI and marketing techniques they continually drive up the price with every single sale they do! I’ll break it down step by step with references to Yu-Kai Chou’s Octalysis. (I consider this model the easiest one to make gamification ‘visible’).

Lets start with some marketing (for fun). The title and tagline: ‘Pay what you want: Incredible iOS 9 Developer Bundle’ - Master all things iOS 9, Swift, Xcode & tvOS with 96+ Hours of Training and 100+ App Templates. This sounds amazing right? It’s a bundle, and an incredible one at that, that let’s you ‘master’ all things iOS9. They make it sound easy, they make it sound affordable and they make it sound comprehensive. Below that is the list of all the products contained in the bundle. They add up the value to $2044,-. Thats a lot of value! And you can get it for as little as a single dollar! Great marketing ;)

Now on to gamification. First of, we see a counter at the top right of the page telling you how many people have gone to this site before you. Not only does this give the product credibility (because so many people have already bought it), but it also gives you the feeling it would be silly not to buy. Both of these relate to ‘Social Influence’. (Note though that this can also work against you, if no one actually buys your product and the counter stays at 0!)

Below the counter we see the option to buy the bundle and you are given the options to ‘beat the average price’ or to ‘pay what you want’. Now this is where it gets interesting. If you choose to pay what you want, you can start as low as 1$, but you find out you only get 2 out of the 8 apps for this price! So, in truth you can only get the full bundle when you pay more than the average payer before you. This is combined with great UX/UI. If you suggest a payment lower than the average, 6 out of the 8 apps get locked and grey out. This visual cue immediately shows you that you are missing out. Here, they make use of something called the ‘FOMO punch’, basically aimed to make you feel like you would be missing out if you don’t beat the average. This is something you feel you want to ‘avoid’. Furthermore, by indicating that you’d be willing to pay ‘less’ than all these other people for such a great deal, they once again leverage social influence. If you combine these elements you get a system that slowly drives up the price, even though you can ‘choose what to pay’. When I myself bought the package the average was about $7 and I was buyer number 92. Now they are up to nearly 2000 buyers and the average price has gone up to nearly $10.

They utilize another great way to drive up the average price by using a leaderboard. In sales? Yes! This is how they do it: The leaderboard shows the 8 people who paid the most for the bundle. If you get into the top 8, at any point during the sale/offer, you get 1 entry to win a special giveaway. If by the time the sale ends, you are still in the top 8, you get 5 entries to the giveaway! This giveaway is presented as a great product to have, and only one person can win it. So, they make the reward scarce, and make it a competition. People who are interested in this will pay more for their bundle, far above the average price, and this really drives up the average price for all other buyers. (The current highest buyer paid $50) 

As a last push they use a countdown showing you how many days are left before the offer ends. It’s the same element used by sites as Kickstarter. By placing a time-limit you increase the strength of the FOMO-punch. No time to think. You either buy the bundle now or you’re out of time and have missed out on this great offer!

Most of these techniques are considered to be on the bottom of the Octalysis framework. They are aimed at marketing and at making you want to buy. These type of techniques are considered ‘black hat’ gamification, which in some cases can leave a bad taste in your mouth afterwards. They compensate this by adding a game element close to ‘humanity hero’. Though it could be argued that besides a sense of ‘meaning’ it also gives a sense of ‘accomplishment’. For every sale they make 10% is donated to charity. What better way to make someone feel good than to help others? Up till now nearly $2000 has been raised.

This type of gamification goes beyond simple ‘badges and points’ and taps into core human drives and motivations. The leaderboard is easy to call out, but the other elements are harder to place a ‘label’ on. In my personal opinion, however, this is what it’s all about. Gamification is a lens through which to view your product and service. If combined with things such as great marketing and UX/UI you create a great cocktail to improve what you offer!