Attracting in-game shopping newbies

April 29, 2021
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Expand your mobile game business to PC and web to reach new players.

VIDEO GAME ZEITGEIST

IGS is a growing monetization trend

Adding in-game purchasing to your game is a great way to provide extra value to your players, with minimal future maintenance, and power up your monetization efforts.

Global app economy expert Sensor Tower estimates that of the $50.1 billion generated by in–app purchases in 2020, $36.6 billion came from within games – a 21.2% YoY increase.

The challenge is that only 5% of players make in-game purchases, but 48% spend again within one hour of their first purchase. If you can convert a gamer to make that initial purchase, you increase the odds of their transformation into regular buyers.

In earlier blog posts, we extolled the virtues of adding an in-game store and how to make a player-popular in-game store that’s also profitable. Now, we want to share specific tips on converting the purchase-shy in-game store players from lurkers to buyers and what can influence repeat shopping habits.

NEWBIES MATTER

The value of a gamer’s first purchase

It’s no secret that, in our freemium economy, getting a user to initiate their first purchase is a challenge, and the conversion efforts come at a cost to developers. According to Liftoff, getting a mobile gamer to make a first in-game purchase costs an average of $35.42

Still, chasing that first in-game purchase conversion is clearly worth the added effort:

  • A gamer’s first buy significantly reduces churn.
  • In-game store buying leads to long-term retention.
  • First-time in-game store purchases make repeat purchases more enticing.
  • A higher conversion rate translates to a healthier game and a more stable business.

Candy Crush Saga is a free-to-play model that in 2020 generated over $2M every day from in-app purchases, motivating developer King to abandon its ad-based revenue strategy.

UNDERSTANDING WHAT MOTIVATES US

The shopping allure mechanism

Freemium games earning revenue from in-game stores bank on the notion that once a gamer takes the spending plunge, they’re more likely to repeat the behavior. It’s true, but why does “buy once” inevitably lead to “buy more?”

Human biology makes consumers an addictive group, by default. Our brains respond to reward and accomplishment by releasing the feel-good chemical dopamine. Developers already know that video games are, by nature, addictive, feeding our dopamine machine with every quest we complete and every level we climb.

In-app purchases make it even more possible for players to get that dopamine hit by enabling characters to achieve more, ensuring survival, or endowing them with more skill, power, or cunning. The more a gamer achieves, the more they are rewarded, the more they crave achievement, and the cycle continues.

THE PATH TO PURCHASE

Best practices for converting new shoppers

We know a player’s first purchase establishes a buying pattern; however, getting them to take the first leap of faith is more art than science.

Just like brick-and-mortar boutiques leave their front doors open with a “WELCOME!” sign in plain view, ease of entry is a new player’s attraction to a freemium game. The same holds for in-app purchases. An enticing in-game store needs to stoke a user’s desire to “window shop,” be simple to understand, offer prices well within expectations, and of course, promise a dopamine-inducing, feel-good reward.

An in-game store’s assortment of goods should include game advancements and enhancements to the player experience; nevertheless, remain mindful of new users’ limitations. While your more advanced customers might be willing to spend many hard-earned dollars on next-level achievement boosters, the newbie wallet appreciates the value of a more awesome avatar or in brandishing a new weapon.

Particularly for free players, the first purchase decision is enormous. The act converts their free experience into one with a price. The first thing they buy should be compelling. New player starter packs – low price-point bundles containing a predefined set of tools, virtual currency, or other goods intended to bring the new gamer up-to-speed – are a proven technique to entice first-time shoppers into making the free-to-pay leap.

One version of Fortnite’s popular starter packs costs just $3.99 and contains a character skin, assorted cosmetics, a pickaxe, and a small stash of V-Bucks to spend on microtransactions. Of course, to keep things fresh, specific combinations are available for a limited time and rotate in at random intervals.

You can introduce starter packs during new player tutorials to emphasize the “more bang for the buck”  initial investment.

Extended-use goods are an effective incentive for first-time buyers. Users are more likely to buy an item or bonus that they can use more than once or for a particular period. For instance, a booster that increases all battle rewards for thirty days feels like a great value. While players spend a lot of in-game currency on character or city development, this type of limited time, the prolonged-effect item is a proven shopping magnet.

Remember that your GAME is the main attraction, so resist the urge to spam users with tons of notifications that promote sales, boosts, skins, or other new items. Keep intermittent IGS announcements short – one or two times a day is plenty – timely, relevant, and beneficial to actual gameplay (“Hey there! Need an energy boost to get over that pesky wall??“), and you retain your store’s welcoming ambiance. For example:

  • Announce that a recently promoted special offer is ending soon.
  • Promote free rewards and other high-value items.
  • Notify players about unique items recently added to the store, such as an epic armor set or a specialty weapon.

Finally – and most importantly – when a user is ready to make their first purchase, you want to ensure it’s an uplifting experience. If their actual transaction process is a breeze, the less likely they will drop off before completing the purchase. Reduce barriers to conversion by offering multiple payment options in a streamlined way that does not divert the player out of the game environment.

NO PLAY, NO SHOP

First, feed your game’s fundamental

One final thought: Users who partake in microtransactions do so because they’re invested in the game. Do your players – and yourself –  a favor by prioritizing the game experience above all else. Sure, design your economy and play pattern to optimize in-app shopping, but most of all, remember to enjoy the game.

WANT TO KNOW EVEN MORE?

We’re happy to have shared some of Xsolla In-Game Store’s best practices to attract first-time purchases.

We encourage you to download and enjoy our ebook, “Game Commerce Essentials: How to make a successful in-game store.” Inside, we delve into more detail on what you can sell, how you can price and display your offers, and highlight the best ways to boost sales and increase engagement with your player base.

You can also contact us for more information or sign up for a free Xsolla Publisher Account to explore how easily you can integrate an in-game store into your game.

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