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Reading List: Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion

Dr. Robert B. Cialdini wants you to buy this book

Reading List: Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion

I'll be totally honest. I hadn't heard of Robert Cialdini's classic until SessionM's Scott Weller mentioned him in a PocketGamer.biz guest column about the value of reciprocity.

But it sounded interesting so I bought the book.

It's been my most significant business read of 2013.

Ying and yang

As the title make clear, Cialdini is writing at a fairly deep level about how we make decisions; often how we make use of stereotypes or shortcuts to make quick, even unconscious, decisions.

Of course, this is a sword with two edges.

People who know how our thought processes work can use them to gain themselves a more positive outcome.

Equally, however, as individuals, with this knowledge we can become more aware of how we make such decisions - and how others may be trying to influence us.

Then, perhaps, we can make our decisions on a more rational basis. Indeed, Cialdini ends every chapter in the book with advice on How To Say No.

The second cheapest wine, please

In terms of how this relates to mobile gaming, the obvious area of application is the retailing of virtual goods and currency in free-to-play games.

That's what Scott Weller was talking about; reciprocity being a classic psychological technique of doing someone a small favour, which will then make them more disposed to you.

This is most clearly seen when in the supermarket or duty-free shop, you're offered a cheese taster or sip of a new rum. The percentage uptake in sales of cheese and rum compared to when people aren't offering a taster is marked.

Similar well-known retail techniques covered in the book include the importance of scarcity, and lowball and anchor pricing, not to mention the influence of social proof, authority figures, and the reactance principle.

Play nice

At this point, it's also worth mentioning that Cialdini is not talking about dark arts of manipulation.

While Influence may be operating in the same ballpark as the timeshare men and chat-up artists, it's not going to give you the magic method of getting all your players to take the $99.99 IAP transaction.

This is about persuasion, not manipulation.

Yet, thoughtfully read and applied, this book should radically change the way your game's user experience is structured.

Personally, I find too many F2P games could be used as a classic examples of what not to do when it comes to encouraging me to spend money; typically because they ask for too much, too early in the game.

Asking me to spend money now without making it clear how this will change my short and longterm experience is another common failing.

The relationship

Instead, applied consistently and with honesty - something that's all important in this games-as-a-service world - these techniques will make your players (and payers) will be happier with their experience.

In turn, this will see them trusting you more, and mean that buying something in a game they're already enjoying will become a less conscious decision, leading to better retention and revenue.

In another context, why do you think parents have been buying Nintendo consoles for the past 30 years?

Conversely, trying to over-manipulate your audience for a quick buck will only see you fail faster.


You can find out more about Robert B. Cialdini current work via his company website.



Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion is available at all good bookstores; Amazon UK [link], Amazon US [link].

You can check out other books recommended in our Reading List here.


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Contributing Editor

A Pocket Gamer co-founder, Jon is Contributing Editor at PG.biz which means he acts like a slightly confused uncle who's forgotten where he's left his glasses. As well as letters and cameras, he likes imaginary numbers and legumes.

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Dave Mitchell Founder at Two Tails
It is a good book, worth a read if you haven't already.

"applied consistently and with honesty" - this is always key, in any line of business :)
John Ozimek director
All hail Jon Jordan, the Malcolm Gladwell of mobile games ;-)

But seriously, have ordered this from Amazon - great review.