Fear of Missing Out = A Rather Predatory Marketing Strategy

Fear of Missing Out = A Rather Predatory Marketing Strategy

Harry Lin, Staff writer

Marketing isn’t exactly the healthiest or most ethical part of our society despite how much of a staple it is. But there are very few marketing strategies that boil my blood as the ones that target those with strong impulses and weak minds. People that do not have the control to stop themselves from spending an inordinate amount of money on virtual things.

The gaming industry has become full of nasty strategies to sell someone something that is completely worthless in the real world. This has led to some Developers using all the tricks in the book only seen in the most machiavellian of Nft sellers. Those who fall for these tricks are called “whales” in gaming circles because they are big spenders and have been hooked by the game like a fish. And in my opinion, the worst strategy of them all to exploit these people is capitalizing on their fear of missing out. 

Fear of missing out isn’t new, but it’s growing more and more in the gaming industry. But why? What makes this industry so susceptible to this kind of marketing? Well, games are designed entirely from the ground up, and this design can include aspects that try to siphon money from the masses, while also concealing their purpose behind flashy effects and decent gameplay. The most recent phenomenon in games is the battle pass in its many forms and names designed entirely around the fear of missing out. 

First off, a battle pass is something that has levels through which players will progress by playing the game. But there tend to be two separate passes that progress simultaneously: the free pass and the paid pass. Sure, everyone gets the rewards that come with the free pass, but the paid pass is many times better than the free one. And as you claim your rewards for the free pass, the paid pass is right there to tempt you. An additional challenge to this is the fact that the passes expire every season, which means you can’t progress the passes and you can’t buy the paid pass anymore. So, the game is always reminding you that this is a limited-time deal, which makes the deal seem more lucrative, tempting the player even more than the rewards already do. You’d be hard-pressed to find a live service game that doesn’t do this. Overwatch 2, Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2, and almost every freemium game ever made.

Another way that fear of missing out is used is the rotating cash shop. This is basically a shop where you buy in-game stuff – usually with real money. However, the shop’s items constantly switch out for new ones giving way to an inflated price which is justified because, well, it might never come back and if you don’t buy it now it’s going to be gone forever. This is basically making artificial scarcity by using the fear of missing out. 

In truth, I could talk about this topic for hours. I find it frustrating as I continue to observe the continuous spread of this into my favorite franchises like the pretty recent change in Warhammer 40k Darktide. The ignorance of the normal, unaware consumer of video games that the industry preys upon tests my patience as they make arguments that side with these extremely large companies. But I get why they do it. Video games are a business and it has to make money at some point. However, I believe there are better ways to monetize than these manipulating tactics. I won’t condemn a game just because it uses them, but it does leave a bad taste in my mouth. If there was a takeaway from this, it’s that you shouldn’t fall for these tricks and recognize when they’re being used. As to be a more savvy consumer or at least to be able to see when you’re being taken advantage of.