How to add scarcity to your player marketing

ewanemailThe next time your pet cat gets hungry, try this experiment.

Put down two bowls of identical food, but give one bowl half the food of the other. What happens nearly every time is that your cat sniffs both bowls, and begins eating the one with the least amount of food. Like people, cats understand that the more scarce something is, the more valuable it tends to be. They know instinctively that once a good thing’s gone, that’s it – there’s no more.

The thing about scarcity is that it’s becoming, well, scarce.

Digital products and services don’t sell out. There’s always enough for everybody. iTunes can’t say “While stocks last’. Gmail can’t put up a sign saying ‘Limited availability’. That’s a shame, because scarcity is a powerful psychological trigger. But fortunately, there are still ways to use scarcity in your player marketing. Most player marketing focuses on the promise of reward. (“Our games are fun. You’ll get a large bonus.”) But for most people the fear of loss is a far stronger motivator than the potential for gain.

Of course, if you’re selling online poker and casino games, so you don’t have stock shortages or empty shelves, but you can still use scarcity as a sales tool to recruit players.

Here’s 4 ideas I came up with.

#1 – Limit tournament places
Poker tournaments (and casino tournaments like slot races) usually have an arbitrary cap on players that’s never met. Bring down the cap to something realistic, like 500 or 1,00 players. Then tell players to get in quick. Give them a reason why you’re restricting entries, like added money, or the need to complete the tournament within a certain space of time.

#2 – New games
In poker, when you’re releasing brand new game stakes, or even a new game format altogether, you’ll probably kick off with a limited number of tables. You can turn that to your advantage – telling your audience to get in quick and grab a seat. The game itself is the scarcity.

#3 – Busy periods
Again with poker, let’s say bad weather means you’re forecasting a busy period. You might want to let your players know about that upcoming extra influx to the tables. If they know there’s going to be a feeding frenzy, they’ll block out time to take advantage of the extra liquidity – and log on early, imagining the scarcity of seats at juicy tables.

#4 – Bonus code scarcity
Bonus codes are even more potent when you add a sprinkling of scarcity. But they need the back-up of a ‘reason why’, or players will see through you.

You could release a deadline-based bonus code, and tell people they need to deposit before Tuesday. (What happens is you get a flood of deposits on Monday night.)

For the ‘reason why’, you could explain that the bonus has been oversubscribed, and you have to pull it – but you wanted to give your best players a chance to take advantage of it before it disappears.

What’s even better than a deadline-based bonus is a quantity-based deadline. Here the code’s only valid for the first 200 people to deposit or re-deposit. This way, they aren’t sure of the deadline – so players get nervous. You can combine the two. Offer a bonus code that expires at a certain time, but provide a free download product like and ebook or some video training material to the first 200 players.

Scarcity is an under-used tactic in player marketing. See what ideas you can come up with!

Ewan Oxford is the founder of, the iGaming player marketing consultancy.