最近，我在iPad上体验《Tiny Tower》。如果你还没有玩过这款游戏，我可以简单阐述下游戏的主要内容：你的目标是建造住满“bitizen”的塔，塔中的人在这座塔中工作和生活。雇佣bitizen可以赚得金钱，你可以用这些金钱来建造更多的楼层，设立更多的商店并雇佣更多的bitizen，从而赚得更多的金钱，如此循环下去。你可以花费“tower bux”来加速游戏进程，这种货币既可以在游戏中赚得，也可以用真实金钱购买。这是款标准的“等待”游戏，你登陆游戏为商店补充货物，数小时后再次登陆继续补充货物，然后看看是否赚到了足够建造新楼层的钱。现在，我已经建了48层。
你可以花费tower bux获得加速，你也可以用真正的金钱来购买这种货币，30美元可兑换1000个tower bux。显然，游戏的表现很不错，《Tiny Tower》已经成为iTunes上成长最快的应用，拥有数百万玩家。但是，我认为开发商错失了一个赚到更多钱的机遇——没有利用好“良性嫉妒”的心理。
嫉妒分为两种：良性和恶性。根据Niels van de Ven及其同行发表的一系列文章中的解释，我们对后者更为熟悉，也就是“他们获得了某些我想要的东西，我希望他们没有获得这件东西”此类的想法。当我们认为其他人没理由获得那样东西时，这种思维会显得更加突出。但良性嫉妒是指其他人获得我们想要的东西，但是我们认为他们理应获得。他们通过自己的努力获得了东西，或者说这是他们用心所取得的回报。
当我们体验到良性嫉妒时，我们不会想去破坏他人，而是自己尽量努力获得他们所拥有的东西。研究显示，这种良性嫉妒的感觉会驱动我们去做缩小与他人之间差距的事情。这或许包括花费更多金钱来获得其他人拥有的产品。在研究中，van de Vern让参与者感受到好友获得自己憧憬的实习医师职位的良性嫉妒，结果这些大学生参与者更加努力地学习，提高自己获得同等岗位的机会。在随后的研究中，他们对好友获得新iPhone产生良性嫉妒，于是也都愿意多花64%的钱来购买新的手机。
我认为《Tiny Tower》错失的额外盈利机会在于，游戏没有允许你购买特定的商店。游戏中商店的出现是随机的，如果你准备在一个楼层盖餐饮店，那么你可能会获得Sky Burger或Fancy Cuisine。利用这一点对提升盈利很重要，因为有些商店比其他商店更好，单次可存储的货物量更多，让玩家在离开游戏的时候可以赚得更多的金钱。
尽管《Tiny Tower》允许你查看GameCenter好友所建的塔及其拥有的商店，但游戏并没有提供购买特定商店的服务。或许，好友塔中的Tutoring Center商店可以存放5400单位的“Trig Help”，每单位售价3个钱币，而你塔中最好的商店可存放货物数量要少得多，使你必须频繁登陆游戏。如果《Tiny Tower》允许你用真实金钱来购买Tutoring Center，我打赌该游戏开发商能够赚到更多钱，尤其在人们邀请好友并由此产生良性嫉妒之后。
Benign Envy and The Psychology of Tiny Tower
I’ve been messing around lately with Tiny Tower on the iPad. If you haven’t played it, the gist is that you build up a tower full of “bitizens” who live in your tower’s apartments and work in its shops. Employed bitizens make money over time, which you can spend to build ever more floors to get more shops to employ more bitizens to make more money. You can speed this process up by spending “tower bux” which you can either earn in-game or buy with real money. It’s very much a “wait to play” game where you check in on it, stock your shops, then check back in a few hours later to restock again and see if you’ve accrued enough money to build a new floor. I’ve currently got 48 floors.
You can speed things up by spending tower bux, and you can hasten your accrual of tower bux by exchanging a few real bucks – $30 will net you 1,000 tower bux. Apparently this is doing well for the developers, as Tiny Tower has shown up on the iTunes list of highest grossing apps and it has millions of players. I think they’ve missed an opportunity to make even more money, though, by not taking advantage of something called “benign envy.”
The idea is that there are two kinds of envy: benign and malicious. As explained in series of papers by Niels van de Ven and his colleagues the latter is the kind we may be more familiar with – it’s the “They’ve got something I want, I wish they didn’t have it” variety. It especially happens when we don’t think someone deserves some nice new shiny thing that they’ve got. Benign envy, on the other hand, occurs when someone else has something we want, but we think that they deserve to have it. They worked for it, or it’s a just reward for their good character, or whatever.
When we experience benign envy, we don’t want to tear the other person down as much as we want to build ourselves up to get what they have. If doing so seems relatively easy, research has shown that such feelings of benign envy will motivate us to do what we can to close the gap. This may include spending more money to acquire a product that the other person has. In one study, van de Vern made subjects feel envious of a friend who got a desirable internship, and the result was that subjects, who were college students, studied harder to better their chances. In a follow-up study, they inspired envy for a friend who got a new iPhone, to the point where they subjects they’d be willing to pay 64% more for the gadget than would a control group.
Where I think Tiny Tower is missing out on some extra revenue is that it doesn’t allow you to purchase specific shops. The game is largely capricious about what specific shops appear – flag a floor for food and you may get either a Sky Burger or a Fancy Cuisine. This is important because some shops are WAY better than others because of how deep their stocks are, which lets them generate more money while you’re away from the game.
And while Tiny Tower allows you to peek in on your GameCenter friends’ towers and see what shops they have, it doesn’t allow you to do much about it if they have, say, a Tutoring Center that stocks an awesome 5,400 units of “Trig Help” at three coins a pop while the best service shop you have only sells a fraction of that before you have to manually restock. If Tiny Tower let you buy a Tutoring Center with real money, I’d bet they’d make a lot more, especially after people visited their friends and got a little dose of benign envy.
Of course, that’s not to say that people would always see this mechanic as fair or feel annoyed over the fact that their friends are cheapening their luck and persistence by breaking out the credit card. It’s a delicate balancing act. I’m just saying, I really want a Private Investigator before I hit 50 floors. (Source: The Psychology of Video Games)