In-game stores are an integral part of almost all free-to-play games because it is one of the most important monetization methods.
A good in-game store is a place where a user goes regularly because there they can find everything they need and the purchasing process is comfortable. It is important that the user can easily find this store in the game, because if they can’t see it for some reason and don’t know about its existence then any sales optimization will be useless. That’s why you need to check the number of people opening your store first and simplify navigation if needed.
What to sell in your in-game store?
You have to sell only the goods that a player needs. To understand what is it exactly, you have to segment your audience. You can do it on various parameters like:
How do your players pay? Divide them into the following segments: whales (large spenders), dolphins (mid-range spenders) and minnows (they pay the least).
What do the players do in the game? You can target the Bartle taxonomy of player types who identified explorers, socializers, killers and achievers. Your research data may help you create something catchy for a certain audience and then form the storefront, the rotation and so on.
When a player reaches, let’s say, level 100, and they need a certain item, we have to add that item to our store. Ideally, resource deficit has to run in cycles: we lack experience first, then we gain it but lack some soft, then some hard, and then skills again. Creating all of this is the job of a game designer.
The targeted approach to sales can positively influence the income of a project because everybody has their speedrun rate and speed of content consumption. The developer needs to understand the needs of a user. For example, if a player can’t pass a level, we can offer them a booster by highlighting it in our in-game store or make a pop-up.
Separately we have to say about the fillers - unnecessary items that are not the primary buying reason. They have to be free and we only give them as an addition to the main item.
A good filler example: a player buys $5 or more gold bars in Candy Crush and we give them a lollipop hammer
A bad filler example: a player pays $20 but gets only $5 gold bars and $15 worth of unnecessary at the moment items.
How to organize an in-game store?
Let’s take a look at in-game store core logic - the number of categories and the item set in each of them.
A store needs as many categories as it is necessary depending on the game type: one game may only need hard and soft currency (i.e. currency bought for real-life money and currency earned in the game) and nothing more, but another game (i.e. some battlers) may have several stores and each of them will have some categories.
Stores in most top games show six items in one category with no scrolling. It means that you’d better set five (give or take two) items in focus. More is worse because players can have difficulties with keeping all the items in mind and they may experience the so-called “ paradox of choice” - a situation when a customer leaves without buying anything.
The number of items may increase depending on the game type: if the lifetime is long then we need something to keep the player interested.
How to range items?
The visual composition of the in-game store can also be a part of your target offer. For a low-paying audience, you can range items from the cheapest to the most expensive, for a high-paying audience you can do it vice versa. In this case, however, a lot depends on the niche. For example, a low-paying audience may never buy cosmetics, but it may buy boosters. That’s why you need to show the most expensive boosters on the first positions for everyone including the low-paying players.
In any case, you need to run A/B tests because in some games the low to high price range works better and in other games it is right the opposite. After your audience changes, you have to run those tests again.
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In-game store pricing
This is a vast topic and we are going to take a look at just some of the pricing aspects.
A typical in-game bank has, on average, six positions. The most popular are:
Store profit from the second and the third positions range from 1 to 10%. Profit from the fourth position ranges from 11 to 20%. Profit from the fifth and sixth positions is 51% and more.
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What to take into consideration when pricing
Before entering a market with a new game you need to analyze prices of similar apps. If you made a game for the wider audience, you can use an average spend of a low-paying or mid-range paying audience as a reference. If you made a premium game, then you can make items more expensive than the average spend of a high-paying audience.
If you doubt your in-game store pricing, you can take into consideration the prices of basic goods in the retail of a region where you are going to sell your game. In some countries, for example, it is common to make big discounts, in other countries they often sell two for one and so on. It’s just that you have to study local consumers' behavior.
Different regions/countries distribution
If one item price differs for different regions’ audiences then you have to make sure that those audiences do not intersect. If they get an opportunity to chat with each other then they will quickly find out that someone pays more and start to complain. It means that you need to either set a flat price or to distribute users on different servers.
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CATS (a not-so-good store because there are too many number in the prices)
In the in-game stores you can use all the conventional marketing moves:
If the price is not high, you can write it with .99. If you write $99,99 with single text size then this pack will be more difficult to sell than a $100 pack, but if you write $99 in a larger font and .99 in smaller font then you will be able to sell more $99,99 packs than $100 packs. That’s why if you write prices in single size font, you’d better round off prices (write $1 rather than $0.99).
If the price already has three numbers, then you should not add .99 at the end because it will make the price look too high (e.g. $139 is better than $139.99).
Discounts and prices with .99 work better on the low-paying audience, while complimentary items (X2) - on the high-paying audience.
It is better to show the discount on actual figures rather than in percentage (e.g. $12 from $200 is better than the 6% discount). You can even write “your profit +150%” (+400% and such). With a high-paying audience, a value works better than a discount.
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Angry Birds 2
Differences between stores in various markets
User behavior in different regions can vary. You have to keep it in mind while entering a new market.
In Moscow and Saint Petersburg users buy more goods than in other regions. As a result, a high-paying regional user makes fewer purchases than a similar user in the capitals. High-demand goods, however, are similar.
Across the globe
In the Middle East and the north of Africa, cheap cosmetic improvements ( “affordable luxury”) are in demand. People living in these regions like to adorn their characters, make them unique and special.
In the South-East Asia players are more comfortable with play to win than in North America and Western Europe.
In South America users are ready to pay for a possibility to play in a team.
If you want to spot these kinds of nuances, you need to communicate with players of the chosen region and gather statistics.
Example of a good store
Clash Royale in-game store can, to an extent, be a showpiece of a good shop.
it is well structured (there are categories with promotions);
there are enough interesting goods;
it is personalized (the most suitable item is highlighted).
there are no examples of what you can buy for a certain sum of money;
there’s no fictional purchase: a situation where a certain resource is absent in the store but you need it for making a transaction. In this case, you are offered to buy the needed resource for hard currency (it helps to lighten the store).