Behaviour Change

PROPAGANDA FOR CHANGE is a project created by the students of Behaviour Change (ps359) and Professor Thomas Hills at the Psychology Department of the University of Warwick. This work was supported by funding from Warwick's Institute for Advanced Teaching and Learning.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Not So 'Free'mium Games



I hate to admit it, but even after two years I still play Candy Crush. Like a lot of the games out there it is a ‘free’mium game, whereby you can play the game for free, yet to unlock new levels, get more lives or to just give yourself a few more moves you have to pay. Although I am proud to admit I have never spent a penny on Candy Crush, their sister game, Candy Crush Soda, VERY nearly made me.

When you first play Candy Crush Soda, the game gives you 100 gold bars for free. As the picture above shows you are able to use these bars to renew your lives or more importantly give you the 5 extra moves you so desperately need to beat the level. As you start playing, the 100 bars you had start dwindling till finally you end up with only 5 like I have above. Funnily enough, in order to get more gold bars, you have to pay real world money.

Candy Crush Soda, like all ‘free’mium games, uses the ‘foot in the door’ technique to try and convince you to pay up.  The 100 free gold bars at the start allow players to experience the joy of having 5 extra moves in times of desperate need. Of course this privilege soon expires leaving users pining for the gold bars in order to beat the level they’ve been stuck on for days! The idea is that once you’ve had a taste of free gold bars, it wouldn’t be too much of a stretch to part with a bit of pocket change. They make you commit to the game by not only expending your cognitive effort in trying to beat the level but also by letting you feel the relief of the safety blanket of the 5 extra moves!


This technique is supported by a study carried out by Freedman and Fraser (1966). They went to different houses within California asking them to either comply with a small request (asking subjects to either put up a small sign or sign a petition on either safe driving or keeping California beautiful) followed by a large request (install in their front lawn a large sign that said “Drive Carefully”) or simply asking a large request up front. In other words, there were 4 experimental conditions varying in terms of similarity to the final task (both small and large request are signs) and similarity to the final issue (both requests are about safe driving). As you can see in the table below, results revealed that presentation of the first smaller request tended to increase the magnitude of compliance with the second request regardless of the issues/tasks they were protesting.


So the One-Contact Condition or the control condition where they asked subjects to comply with the large request up front only elicited 16.7% compliance. On the other hand, all 4 experimental conditions which used the foot in the door technique elicited over 45% compliance. In other words, irrespective of whether demands are similar or not, just asking that first request increases the compliance of the second larger request. Just like the experiment, the makers of Candy Crush Soda put their foot in the door by making their users commit a certain amount of cognitive effort through letting them taste the joys of a safety blanket! Doing this increases the likelihood of subsequent compliance… TO PAY!


Freedman, J. L., & Fraser, S. C. (1966). Compliance without pressure: The foot-in-the-door technique. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 4, 195-202.

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