Free to Play Psychology & CrossOut

I know it’s long, but read a bit before replying, pretty please…

I’ve mentioned this a few times when complaints have arisen regarding the BattlePasses, OP parts, CrossCrowns, and things like un-craftable limited availability parts.

None of this is on accident. It’s all very much on purpose. It’s all very well researched & present in virtually every Free to Play game.

People aren’t as willing to fork out $60 for a game as they once were, and smaller developers can’t afford a huge marketing push to make that profitable, anyhow. So, the F2P model has emerged and has been perfected.

Here are some quotes from a couple of articles with links provided:

1. The Endowed Progress Effect (Artificial Advancement)

The Endowed Progress Effect is something you’ve probably already encountered both in real life and in traditional games. When you go to a carwash and you get a loyalty card, they’ll often stamp the first few points as a “bonus”.

This is actually a trick that makes it more likely you’ll want to complete the set. This effect is a curious situation where people want to finish sets of things that have been artificially started for them by someone else. In a traditional game such as Skyrim, you may overhear two characters speaking and a questline is automatically started or you may pick up an item and be told there are 9 more to be found. Although you didn’t choose to begin the task, you still feel a compulsion to finish it. So don’t be surprised when you are “gifted” the first part of a set of items in a F2P game.

How to Fight Endowed Progress: This one is tough, but if you feel compelled to complete a set or list of things, ask yourself who you’re doing it for. Did you start this work or were you told to do it? Only if keep going if YOU want to.

The Endowed Progress Effect… We’re gonna give you TWO of the new track, but you’re gonna want 4. LOL

2. Loss Aversion Bias

Humans (and certain other primates) have a bias when it comes to losses versus gains. We experience the pain of loss more intensely than the pleasure of gain, so we tend to make decisions that play it safe with the resources we already have. Usually, this manifests as risk aversion, but it can also motivate us to act when something is going to be taken away.

When you’re given a reward that goes away unless you do something to maintain it, our tendency to avoid losses can make you log in just so you don’t miss that 7-day bonus streak. It’s a reliable way to keep people coming through the door when their interest starts to wane.

How to Fight Loss Aversion: Be rational. Weigh up the amount of effort you need to exert to keep something versus how much that thing is actually worth. Only commit to it if you really need or want the perk that’s running out.

Loss Aversion… limited availability of earned resources like… oh… I dunno… lighters? Cartridges?

3. Artificial Scarcity

We value things that are scarce or unique. Artificial scarcity is a tried and tested marketing technique, but it also works as a game design element. Any free-to-play games that offer items that have different rarities are tapping into artificial scarcity in one way or another. Unique items, rare item drops, or unique prizes and rewards all offer a strong incentive to play and, of course, developers can conjure an endless supply of artificially scarce items from thin air for their virtual world.

How to Fight Artificial Scarcity: The same as above! Objectively consider how much the scarce item or reward is > worth to you against how much you have to work to get it and what it will cost you to get it.

Artificial Scarcity… items only available during seasons… workpieces… blueprints… Beholder, anyone?

[5 Psychological Tricks in Free-To-Play Games (and How to Avoid Them) (](Rules link at top of forum is broken)

1 – The Skinner box

We spoke about this one in depth in our idle games article because idle games are a perfect definition for the term.

Skinner boxes are (much to his annoyance) named after psychologist B. F. Skinner. He was researching behavioural conditioning, which is how you reinforce a behaviour psychologically. He placed rats in a box with a switch and, when the rat pressed the switch, food would appear. The rats started to associate the switch with the food and would just keep pressing it even if the food stopped arriving or just appeared randomly. The rats were addicted.

Games that reward players for repetitive actions are called Skinner boxes because they enforce a behaviour that quickly spirals into addiction, or mindless action. Think slot machines in a casino. Idle games do this through repetitive action (tapping), but many games do this through reward boxes or gachas. The player might often get awful rewards, but the occasional draw of something good keeps them going – even if they no longer find it fun.

This is a form of behavioural addiction that everyone gets struck by at some point. Whether it’s loot boxes, random loot drops, or many daily reward systems.

The benefits of this for monetisation and retention are obvious: if a player is addicted to opening loot boxes, they’re going to buy a lot of them. If a player is addicted to a core part of your gameplay loop, they’re going to keep coming back… Again, idle games are the perfect example – just look at how the genre leads in retention!

The Skinner Box… Those dailies in the current season are a good example of this… as are the lead crates. Yay. More junk, but at least it’s something, right?

2 – Sunk cost fallacy

This comes from the idea that humans don’t make rational choices based on an objective summary of potential results. Our judgement is often clouded by what came before it, and especially by how much time we’ve already invested.

For example, imagine we’re playing a game where you flip a coin and guess heads or tails for each flip. To your amazement, you get 8 heads in a row – what do you expect the next flip to be? Most people would say tails, especially if getting a tails would mean you win – you’re overdue for it, right? In reality, the chance of flipping heads or tails will always be 50/50.

If you have been super committed to a game that you really struggled to quit, this is probably what was stopping you. World of Warcraft players with many characters and hundreds of hours committed won’t want to stop and lose all of that, even if playing the game is causing problems elsewhere in their life. If you’re saying that this just sounds like loss aversion with more steps, you’d be right.

The entire concept of Candy Crush Saga was essentially based on this principle, easing players into a few levels until they’re so far in that stopping would suggest they wasted that time. Candy Crush wasn’t even the first saga game that King tested as they went through a series of rapid game prototyping to see which would be the most financially viable. The saga model of continual progression was lifted from a game called Bubble Witch Saga and applied to Candy Crush, which only existed as a successful web game at the time. The incredible engagement of Candy Crush Saga flung King into the billion dollar company it is today.

And a final note on the power of the sunk cost fallacy, it’s often one of the self reported reasons that whales end up spending so much time and money on a game. Read a report of that here.

Sunk Cost Fallacy… I mean, I’ve been playing for years. IMAGINE ALL I HAVE TO LOSE!!! LOL


There’s also growing data that these methods lead to addiction. Granted, it’s not addiction on the level of nicotine, alcohol or opioids, but it’s there. If you’re interested, here are some articles…

. - Internet Gaming

Video Game Addiction Statistics 2023: Demographics, Revenue & Mental Health - EarthWeb

Video Game Addiction Symptoms and Treatment (


On a purely anecdotal note, I have 4 kids. One exhibits disturbing addiction tendencies. As one who grew up in a home with alcoholism & other addictions, I take it very seriously, even though it’s just video games.

This particular kid, if allowed to play at all, exhibited disturbing and obnoxious behavior. He became obsessed and EVERY conversation with him was about gaming. If we’re sitting around the dinner table eating & talking about a particular subject - say an upcoming vacation for example - when he finally entered the conversation, it wouldn’t be about the vacation. It’d be about gaming.

When locked out of the computers (we don’t have consoles), he’d do clever things like sneak into the room immediately after someone got off a computer & would play a YouTube video of 10 hours of black silent video full screen so it looked like the computer was off. Then, in the middle of the night, he’d sneak downstairs to play.

When allowed to play & then made to stop, he’d be irate. Throw fits. Treat everyone like trash for hours.

It went on & on.

Mind you, we’ve taken pretty drastic measures to curtail this, and he’s now aware of his tendencies & behavior. After completely stopping him from gaming for months, and eventually clearly explaining why, he began to understand. He began to see it in himself…

“Dude, you’re treating everyone like trash. You just screamed at your sister for nothing. Do you realize you just did that?”

blank stare

There were a lot of instances like that in the past.

It’s not at all unlike the alcoholic sweating with the shakes barking at everyone around him until he gets a drink…

Different? Yes? Different, but the same…


Everything mentioned above is self inflicted. Yes, the company creates an environment that promotes behaviors, but at the end of the day you decide. Not them.

I find that Many people can not separate reality and entertainment. They become their online persona and let themselves be taken advantage of because they put a lot of real world value into digital content. Many peoples Online egos are very fragile.

The funniest thing is that the self proclaimed “Skilled” player have the most delicate ego of them all. They will get bent out of shape really easy over game stuff. They have such soft egos that they ban together and stroke each others egos and sit around talking about how everyone (but them of course) sucks or is a cheater :upside_down_face:

This is very unhealthy.


With all the debating and speculating about the devs & what their motivations are for various things, at the end of the day, it’s to make money. They don’t have some silly master plan with hovers… they’re not trying to manipulate the market. They’re trying to make cash, and they’re simply using the Free 2 Play funding methods every other developer out there is using.

Maybe I’m hopeful some folks would want to learn what those methods are so they can recognize them in-game, and recognize the risks that come from them.


after reading everything, that one quote says it all. When it comes down to it, people need to find their purpose for doing things, otherwise, without purpose anyone can get lost inside of something or, worse, addicted to it.

I’ll give myself as an example. For the last 30 or so years, I’ve made it a point to find games that I (personally) can create fan-fiction from. Games with the right themes that poke at my creativity, getting it to move. Buying it or Free to Play, either way, after playing the game for a while and enjoying what it has to offer, I’ll get to work on my fan-fiction.

So, at this point, whether it was bought or free to play, one of my purposes is fulfilled and, as such, have yet to experience any kind of loss.

Moving forward, if it happens that enough people enjoy my fan-fic, I’ll revise it and remove any copyrighted stuff, adding in my own creations to, further, publish it all.

At this point, the only loss suffered is Time, itself, in having written 2 different versions of a story. Still, with that loss, another purpose is yet fulfilled.

I’m consuming the game and, as well, being productive with what I consume, and because of this, I feel like there is very little loss in playing games.

All in all, just ask yourself who you are doing it for.


That is where I’m at. This game used to be the most fun game I ever played. Now it is easily the most miserable experience I’ve ever had playing a video game, but I keep logging on to see if it’s going to be fun. It never is. I don’t know what happened, but I just get pwnd over and over, like magic. The game offers me nothing but frustration these days.
I hate to see it go, because there’s nothing else like it, but I have got to just stop. It sucks hard, and I’ve not had fun in months, but I keep pulling the lever. Same result.

Something changed that really wrecked my schit bad, and I don’t know what it is. I know I always used less than optimal art builds, but I used to be able to make it work. I could get MVP with most of my builds, now it’s just crap all night long. I’m very frustrated. Not happy. Not having fun.


i noticed when playing 7k things are all even and scores are pretty close,they way it should be…
but when my 7k is in a 8k match it’s like i can’t even shoot parts off and the scores are way off…
i think something changed for every ps score your in…

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A lot of that is why I will sometimes completely avoid PVP for long stretches. Being the lightest on your team by 3000 and losing repeatedly is miserable.

A possible solution we’ve discussed is changing builds and weapons, but that of course means playing builds I don’t want to play.

So, I probably play more PVE than most.

Actually, this weekend, I played for about 2 hours with my 9 year old in the new custom match set up they have. It was hilarious fun… Playing the dumbest art build I have (including the pooping puppy). When that got old, we pitted ourselves against bordes of massively weaker bots.

Then, we pitted ourselves against the strongest bots the game has with sub 3k builds. Every try to kill a 16 bot with luparas? :joy:

Doing this is not the least bit “productive” in the game, but it’s loads of fun.

Custom matches aside, I find I “grind” at an acceptable pace while bypassing most of the psycho-tricks employed to keep me clicking. Ironically, bypassing them actually keeps me clicking, but more on my terms.

That’s a big part of why I posted this… Burn out is real, and I think these tricks actually cause it. They also cheat the player… And I’m going to completely sidestep the tarbaby that is intentionally encouraging addictive behaviors.

I’d hate to see you go, Doc. Your one of the bright spots of the forum.


It feels nefarious, like the game’s mad because I stopped spending money on it, but the reason I stopped spending money on it was because it stopped being a fun…or I skipped a battle pass because the stuff in it sucked, like this one, and ever since the game has just been awful. It’s been no fun for as long as I’ve sat on my wallet, but I can’t tell which came first, the chicken or the egg. I know I won’t spend a penny on a game that makes me feel cheated, so if that’s the fix, it won’t happen…although the addict in me is really not wanting to hear that.

IDK. It’s probably not nefarious, but is a perfect storm of them systematically nerfing every damn thing in my inventory that I enjoyed playing, leaving me with a bunch of crap I don’t enjoy…Maybe, that is nefarious. My parsers; Crap. Wheels: crap. The Call: crap. Fuzes: crap. The Master: crap. Borers on a Trucker: totally not crap. Go figure.

Thanks, but I’m an addict like in the analogy, and I’ve outlived my actual life. I no longer have one to speak of. I wish I could quit, and I keep trying. I’ve uninstalled the game again, to keep me from punishing myself with it, because I will totally keep pulling the lever as long as it’s there, even if nothing but turds keep coming out, but I know at some point the angst will get the better of me and I’ll re-install. It always does.

This game has a lot going for it, but it’s not putting out the way it used to. It’s like falling in love with a hot chick who grew a penis 5 years into the relationship.

Crossout: It’s not a game. It’s a virus.


And this is the reason I advocated for having PvE modes. Not that piece of abortion we have now…

That way, PvP people can go PvP their brains out and PvE players can relax and have fun doing quests and storyline. Rewarding quests and storyline, mind you.

On several large maps, because Star Conflict freaking exists! But I guess it would be too much to ask.


I do agree, but if we are going to be honest with ourselves, you have more of a chance that they will remove PvE then PvE ever becoming good in this game.

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I can say that I play 99% PvE and do PvP only when I need to earn fuel or complete weekly challenge (and do that in about 3-4 matches).

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Same, this game used to be so much fun. People could perform well with their non-meta builds. Now this game seems to punish people who don’t use the meta. It’s not fun anymore.

Unfortunately, this game isn’t gonna improve. If they want to improve their game. They would’ve done so long ago. The last major update to Awakening was about 4 years ago. This game could have better servers, more game modes, and better balance. But they won’t. As long as packs and BP sell well, why should they care? Want this game to improve? Vote with your time and money.


pretty clever of you to call people who ask for non-insane balance whiners and tell them about libertarian man while simply quitting out of pvp altogether because the mm is too mean.

Don’t you play at low power score?

I am just doing my weeklies from now on for the foreseeable future that is it just to max out the new battlepass. Hogwarts legacy comes out in 4 days time and I am also gonna give the new dead space remake a go has well. There is other games out there besides crossout but it is almost like crossout don’t want people playing other games and this game does not reward casual players only long term hardcore grinders so that is the problem with this game. New players comes along and sees how ridiculous the grind is and they run for the hills. If they introduced decent monthly/weekly challenges they just might get casuals on board has well but daily challenges will not achieve that, only does the opposite. What this game expects of people is disgusting, the game wants peoples entire lives.
From now on I am gonna play this game when I wants to play it and not when the game expects me to play.

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I says we all goes on strike, make a gamers union or something lol

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An interesting thing I notice about most of the responses is that the things that are frustrating all of us are things listed in the original post that are supposed to keep us playing. It is interesting, isn’t it? We hate all that stuff, but those things are a huge component as to why we are still here.

I think another big reason most of us keep coming back is the Minecraft aspect of the game. By that, I mean you have the most freedom over creating your own “character” for lack for a better word. You’re not creating a character, but a vehicle. Same thing. You don’t get to do that so much in minecraft, but you get to create everything else. It is the creative freedom that makes cross out so very unique.

Best analogy ever. :joy:

The difference is I don’t start vulgarity laden threads whining about it. I play elsewhere. Do me a favor. If you’re so butthurt over me having libertarian tendencies and me aversion to crybabies, block me. You’ll be happier in the long run. Your trolling is pointless, although I’m impressed you wisely deleted some of your posts.

You have clearly decided to look for any instance I say anything negative about the game and then insinuate that I’m hypocrite. Like I said, If You’re feelings are hurt, just block me.

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i’m doing my best not to sound overyly rude about it but…it’s known as engineering. The game caters to engineers. It’s not just a clever name for the starting faction.

This game, faults and all, just tickles my engineering abilities and, even when I least suspect it,I find myself on the game, veging out in the garage building some monstrosity.

It’s a GREAT outlet for that inner engineer in all of us just aching to be set free.


You don’t sound rude at all! You are saying what I am thinking, but just in a clearer way.

When I start to get frustrated with the game for whatever reason, I try to take a step back and remember what it is about the game I like. This engineering aspect of it is the foundation of it all.

I have played a lot of first person shooter and driver type games over the years, but they all get boring very quickly. Do I want to be a healer, A brawler, or a sniper? Yawn!

Everything about Crossout would be infinitely less enjoyable if we lost the ability to build our own trucks.

When the grind - in any of its forms - gets to be too much, I just revert to the basics and ignore these pdycho tricks to keep me clicking. Underneath the manipulations, there’s a great game, here.


i never start threads and i never delete posts. but “the man” is out to get me, taking away my freedom of speech every now and then by deleting parts of my oeuvre. sometimes i even get cyberbullied into a ban :frowning: you can click to expand if youre into forbidden stuff, its mostly just flagged by my many lovers.

i dont want to block you, i was afraid you had blocked me after a recent hint of yours. im relieved you didnt.

anyhow my butt doesnt hurt, im enjoying myself. libertarian truck driver is an interesting conundrum to me. and im assuming we dont have to be overly soft in communicating with each other, based on my clichee assumption of the libertarian mindset. correct me if im wrong, please.

yes, because i think you are. when it comes to game balance and this topic.

here you accurately describe a business model that preys on peoples addictive tendencies. you seemingly come to the conclusion its all fair game and people just have to be aware of being manipulated and be careful (how very libertarian of you). because you personally can when it comes to crossout.

but addiction doesnt work like that. didnt you also talk about an alcoholic brother somewhere who cant even be near alcohol? not so easy to be in control for people who are addicted.

and this game is pegi7 and actively markets to addicts/whales. to your gamer child aswell. how can you argue this isnt a shitty business model?
and no, you can sell games differently, but they dont want to because they want that sweet whale blubber and frankly speaking dont give two shits about addicts or kids (e.g. the chat).