Loss Avoidance Bias in Mobile Games

Loss aversion

People basically hate change [1]Especially when the change feels like a loss. In psychology, this is called loss a loss aversion. Loss-avoidance bias was first discussed in the Prospect Theory proposed in 1979 by psychologists and economists Daniel Kahneman and Amostversky [2]. According to the prospect theory, people are more sensitive to losses than to gains. In other words, the loss of 10,000 won is more intense than the joy of picking up 10,000 won even for the same money.




Loss anxiety stimulation

A hospital produced a pamphlet to induce breast cancer screening. Pamphlet A says, “Do a breast cancer test every year. So you can detect and eliminate cancer early,’ and pamphlet B says, “If you don’t do breast cancer tests every year, you risk not being able to detect and eliminate cancer that is likely to occur early.” And most of the people who contacted me for further information were people who saw the pamphlet B [3]. In general, experiments and examples of loss avoidance bias talk about how and the consequences of such loss anxiety.


Stimulate loss anxiety in mobile games

In fact, I thought it would be a bit cliché to talk about loss avoidance and point out that when you sell a product in a game, it’s a limited time or a limited opportunity (but it’s not unimportant). So after thinking about it, how about we look at it based on the case of “Continuing”?


If the mission objective (1) is not achieved within the specified number of movements (2), the following pop-up (3) will be exposed (Candy Crush Friends, King)


This is mainly used in mobile casual puzzle games of the match 3 genre, such as the Candy Crush series (King). In this genre, the opportunity for users to play levels and manipulate blocks is collectively referred to as Moves, and if they fail to achieve their mission goals within a limited number of moves, they can pay in-game currency such as Coin for additional moves. This purchase page is a follow-up pop-up. Yes, it’s the experience where you insert coins in the arcade game machine right before the game is over. And the academic consensus is that more than 70 percent of coin consumption in puzzle games comes from this very follow-up pop-up.


Stimulation of loss anxiety in the following:

The following pop-up of Candy Crush Friends Inc. mentioned earlier shows what is the most basic information that can stimulate users’ anxiety about loss. It’s called “Goals for the remaining missions.” When the mission goal is not achieved and the number of trips is exhausted, the user recognizes the remaining mission goal as if it were the value of the good, and consumes the coin not to lose the almost-all-you-have good.

In the case of Peek Games and Jam City, more information is exposed that stimulates the user’s loss anxiety. In addition to the remaining mission goals, it shows information such as the various event goods or winning status [4] obtained by the user through play, threatening the user that they may lose if they do not continue.


Maximize loss anxiety by exposing various event goods or winning status acquired during play (1. Cookie Jam / 2. Tun Blast)


This design is also related to the endowment effect of psychology [5]. People tend to value things they have more than things they don’t have. In the case mentioned, the loss anxiety is further maximized by making the user feel as if he or she has already achieved or possessed various event goods or consecutive bonus states acquired by the user during play.

In my experiment with the team, when users who wanted to close the follow-up pop-up simply received information that they might lose their behavioral goods (hearts), the purchase rate was more than 33 percentage points higher than when no information was provided [6].


Stimulate loss anxiety in Quit

The Quit pop-up also provides similar information as a device that keeps users in the core play loop [7] by preventing them from interrupting level play. In a variety of mobile puzzle games, including Tunblast, users touch the “Stop” button during a gameplay, which makes them feel like they’re wasting the action (heart) they’ve spent for that level of play, or, like the following, show various event progress, winning information, and threaten them to lose if they quit now.


Expose information that stimulates loss anxiety even when touching the level stop button (toon blast, Peek games)




Even if the user paid cash for the product through in-app purchases, the economy in the game will not circulate unless the purchased goods are induced to be used. Examples such as Tunblast, Cookie Jam, and Candy Crush Friends Saga suggest important points that stimulate users to use goods in succession to create economic cycles or keep users in the gameplay core loop.

1. Stimulate loss anxiety by providing a variety of information that users may feel is a loss if they do not purchase.

2. Stay in the core loop by providing information that may feel like a loss to users who want to leave the game.

3. Maximize the user’s loss anxiety by making them feel as if they already have or have achieved the event goods, mission status, etc. gained through gameplay.

[1] Status quobias

[2] Prospect theory has been suggested as an alternative to the argument that people’s decisions are made in a rational direction in traditional mainstream economics, and that people’s decisions are made in an unreasonable direction, especially in circumstances that are uncertain. And one of the characteristics was loss avoidance bias. Daniel Cannerman won the Nobel Prize in Economics for his work on prospective theory.

[3] Smart Thoughts (Rolf Doveliser, Walking Tree, 2012)

[4] Event goods acquisition status to receive event rewards, or a winning bonus (usually a booster at the start of the level, depending on the winning status). It will be reset if the clear fails or stops.) Information about the status.

[5] https://www.mk.co.kr/opinion/contributors/view/2016/05/345222/

[6] A/B tests that tracked more than 70,000 purchase logs per set showed no significant drop in retention or playtime.

[7] A system flow designed to play the game’s main content repeatedly.

​*Source: https://brunch.co.kr/@jaehyunkim/