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I noticed in some game apps, a modal dialog is shown asking, "John Doe has sent you an invitation to play. [Accept] [Decline]".

In other games, the game just pops up in your list of games, and you can either touch a "Play" button to play or touch "Withdraw" if you want to remove the game.

Does anyone have any case studies which approach causes more played games in total?

My opposing theories are:

  • Performing an active decision (Yes/No) forms a stronger bond to play, thus causing more games to be played.
  • Removing the decision and just showing the game removes a barrier, thus causing more games to be played.

Solid evidence is preferred over opinion :)

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I'd flip that first point on the side; it doesn't just create a "stronger bond" - it makes sure people see the game in the first place. If for example I had a game added to my Facebook list of games, I wouldn't notice at all. That's what a notification is for; attention. –  Dirk v B Aug 18 '13 at 23:03
    
Very interesting point! –  forthrin Aug 19 '13 at 8:02
    
At least in the context of desktops, popups like this are almost never the Right Thing, because of the way they train users to ignore them. –  AJMansfield Sep 19 '13 at 2:56
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2 Answers

As psychologists say, a human rather frequently is leaded by "unconscious brain" and cognitive baises while taking decisions.

Almost all Web sites have target behaviors. How do they get us to engage in the target behavior? How do they get us to buy, register, donate, and click? What makes us click?

To get us to click, they have to persuade us. But don’t make the mistake of thinking that the best way to persuade us is to make a logical presentation. Most behavior and decision-making isn’t conscious. That means that they will have to engage the mid brain and the old brain, in addition to the new brain.

from Neuro Web Design by S. Weinschenk

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Cognitive biases like these play a significant role in the way we make decisions so it’s not surprising that people are now examining these biases to see how to exploit them in the design of web sites. I’m going to use the term ‘persuasion architects’ to describe designers who knowingly use these techniques to influence the behaviour of users.

from Persuasion Triggers in Web Design by D. Travis

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The message

"John Doe has sent you an invitation to play. [Accept] [Decline]"

exploits some those psy tricks:

  • Reciprocity or Sense of obligation Jon Doe spent his time choosing you and sending the invitation to you. This thought makes you feel some obligation of making some actions in turn. And declining looks just unthankful and non polite. Another alternative is Accept.
  • Social proof or Social validation Jon Doe plays this game, as you (probably wrongly) could infer from the message. So this could be a good game, or, at least, nothing wrong to play the game, I want follow the crowd.
  • Similarity and attractiveness Jon Doe is a manager, like me (or he listens the same music, or lives same street, or just pretty guy), so I play the game, similar to him.

Some of those tricks could trigger user.

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I think the core of this is to put User in Control. That means that the user knows what's going on. I this case I think the user would want to know that John Doe has sent an invite.

The specific example however can be improved by changing "Accept" "Reject" labels to something more in lines with how user is thinking about it. Are they thinking that they want to accept the request or are they thinking ya, I want to play with John.

Also, it should be clear on what "Reject" does. Does it tell John that I declined ? So again, user should know what's going on and feel in control.

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