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Why Fake Discounts Are Bad

Fake Discounts featured image.

Can Sales Be Annoying?

Don’t you love sales? I doubt I would own so many computer games if not for Steam sales!

Could sales ever be something bad?

In this post, I am going to explain why certain types of sales can be off-putting and annoying.

Some Games Always Seem to Have Sales

Sales are a way to get people to buy things. That is pretty basic marketing.

But I noticed some developers take advantage of sales. You might wonder how? I will explain.

Sales Get People to Get Buy Things

The developer sets a price for items in a game. Let’s say the price we want to sell an in-app purchase for is $10.

If we just set the purchase price to $10, then maybe people buy it, maybe they don’t. But there is something else we could consider.

What if we set the price of the item to be $30 and then put it on sale for $10?

There is a physiological effect when people see something on sale. It doesn’t matter if the sale price is the actual intended price for the item. Just by being on sale, people are more likely to want to purchase the item.

So what does this have to do with mobile games?

The Grey Market in Scatter hold 'em.
Scatter hold ’em conveniently has these sales every few days. What a discount! Screenshot of the Scatter hold ’em Android game.

How Games Use Fake Discounts

Every single time I open up a game, it greets me with a sale. At what point is the sale price just the standard price?

There is no sale. It is a trick. If things are always on sale, then there is no real sale. Is a discount a real discount if there is always a discount?

Developers are using marketing tricks to convince you to make purchases you might not make otherwise.

A Scatter hold 'em discount. Buy now!
What a sale buy now! If not now, then the next time you open the game as you will see it then too!Screenshot of the Scatter hold ’em Android game.

Other Discount Related Tactics

Timed Discounts

Some developers go even slightly further. They also make the sales expire! You only get this discount for a short time!

That is taking the marketing even further. The developers are trying to pressure you even more into buying things that you might not consider.

Discounts for in Game Progress

Another thing I noticed some games have done recently as well is tie sales to in-game progress. You get certain sales after playing the game for a while.

Collect enough scrolls for a discount in Candy Crush Saga.
Screenshot of the Candy Crush Saga Android game.

Piggy Banks

Piggy banks trick players into thinking they are saving rewards to get for free. But they are just another clever sales tactic.

You save up currency, then you buy it at a discount.

The piggy bank in Candy Crush Saga costs $2 (USD) to open.
Screenshot of the Candy Crush Saga Android game.

How to Spot Fake Discounts

So how do you know a fake discount from a real sale?

Most real sales tend to offer more things in the purchase. They are helpful to the player. Fake sales tend to just offer things you can normally purchase but for a discount.

So how can players use this information?

If a game has sales all the time or almost all of the time, consider the sale price the normal price.

Unless a sale offers something exciting ignore it. Don’t fall for marketing tricks.

Why Fake Discounts Are Bad 1
This bundle is cheap and offers you quite more than a standard discount. This is an sale that offers something good.Screenshot of the Candy Crush Saga Android game.

Advice for Developers

So I doubt any developers doing this care what a random blogger online thinks. But this is what I think should be done about this.

Instead of having frequent sales that don’t do anything, make your in-app purchases cheap, to begin with.

Don’t have fake sales. Make your sales meaningful.

I suppose this would cause a loss in some purchases. But it would be more ethical for everyone involved.