The Paradox of Choice

Originally this article was meant to be about The Decoy Effect (which I will come back to at a later date), but while researching that topic I found articles directing me to The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less by psychologist Barry Schwartz. The basic premise of Schwartz’s book is that instead of improving our quality of life more choice actually increases our anxiety and causes us to waste more time. I remember when I was a child at home we had access to two different tv stations and if I wanted to watch something my choices were generally between a cartoon or a daytime chat show. This was a quick and easy choice. However, now with so many on demand services, I could spend more time choosing what to watch than I actually do watching something. Sometimes I may even get so overwhelmed by choice that I decide I don’t want to watch anything anymore and go do something else.

This is also something which has caused me to not back certain projects in the past. Recently I came across a project on Kickstarter with a theme that piqued my interest. I began scrolling through the page and I was immediately hit with multiple different options of pledge levels for the project. I was quickly overwhelmed and closed the tab and never revisited it. It turns out it was for expansions to a highly rated game, in fact it is in the top 100 games on boardgamegeek’s rankings. It ended up raising over €1 million from 12 thousand backers. Although I think it could have been so much more, when you examine all the different pledge levels only 1 in 6 of the backers went for the options that were aimed at people who didn’t already own the base game. The overwhelming majority were there because they loved the original and wanted more content.

I am sure that many newcomers to the game, like me, saw all the different bundles and backed out because there was too much to take in and they couldn’t make a decision. This is something I notice quite often about expansion campaigns, they have so much extra content that it is difficult when you come late to the party to know what suits you best. I feel if these campaigns would focus on making it more friendly to new people that they would see even more backers. The existing fanbase is also already sold on it, they are jumping in feet first as soon as they see all the new things they can get for a game they love.

This also doesn’t just apply to expansion games, there have been many other campaigns for brand new games that had all kinds of different pledge options. Streamlining these down to just a few would have benefited them significantly over the campaign. While it is still good to offer some choice for those who want it, too much choice can often times be off-putting. As Schwartz suggests, sometimes more is too much.

Have you ever not made a decision on something because there was just too many options?


  1. Anonymous says:

    Very interesting article ; I like how it’s important to consider the human nature when it comes to marketing.


    1. Chris Heaney says:

      Thanks, it’s really fascinating when you look into it.


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