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Robert Cialdini’s Six Principles of Influence

By on May 14, 2019

Robert Cialdini is professor of Marketing and professor of Psychology at Arizona State University. That is a dangerous combination. In 1985, Cialdini published Influence, in which he identified six principles that all compliance professionals—by which he means anyone in sales, marketing or negotiation—use to persuade people. These six principles have stood the test of time and are visible in many successful games.

Social proof

People are likely to behave like other people around them. It’s why people form queues (yes, I’m British) or stare at the sky if other people do so.


If you do someone a favour, they feel they owe you. Salespeople will harness this by offering you a coffee at the start of the conversation or by negotiating a discount on your behalf from their boss.

Commitment and consistency

The importance of keeping your promises is a core tenet of most human societies. Games harness this technique with appointment mechanics: if you plant crops in a resource-management game, you are implicitly promising that you will return at a particular time in the future to harvest them.


There is a reason that salespeople are friendly, good-looking and well-dressed. People find it easier to like attractive, friendly people and are more likely to buy from them or to do as they ask.


When you are too old (or unattractive) to use likeability as your sales technique, it is time to resort to authority. Wear a suit and tie, cultivate an air of knowledge and expertise, and you will be more able to persuade people to do what you want.


If all else fails, invoke a sense of urgency. Closing down sale. Must end soon. “I can only offer this deal until the end of the financial quarter.” Scarcity makes people buy things right now. Anyone who has ever bought a game in a Steam sale understands the value of scarcity in making people buy things.

This is an extract from Nicholas’s new book, The Pyramid of Game Design – get your copy here!

About Nicholas Lovell

Nicholas is the founder of Gamesbrief, a blog dedicated to the business of games. It aims to be informative, authoritative and above all helpful to developers grappling with business strategy. He is the author of a growing list of books about making money in the games industry and other digital media, including How to Publish a Game and Design Rules for Free-to-Play Games, and Penguin-published title The Curve: