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Ideas For In-App Purchasing Do's and Don'ts

Posted by Gamieon, 24 August 2013 · 1,280 views

One of my ad-supported mobile games has been on the market for the better part of a year, and I'm in the process of removing ads and putting in microtransactions to see if they will bring in more income. I'm a neophyte when it comes to designing apps around monetization; and while studying a few AAA apps doesn't make me an expert, it has given me some ideas that I'd like to try with my games and share with other developers to critique.

In Hamster Chase you can earn coins by beating levels, and then spend them later to skip levels. In the next update, players will be able to buy them, too. Here is the in-app screen I designed to appear in the game when a player wants to skip a level but does not have enough coins:

Attached Image

These were the considerations I made in the design:
  • It appears immediately in the game when the player wants to use coins that they don't have.
  • Nowhere do you see the word "buy." I'm treating "buy" as an evil word, and also a redundant one since the price is already on the purchase button. Think about it: do you say to your friends "lets go get some dinner" or "lets go buy some dinner?" The only time I'll use "buy" is if the app has trouble fetching the price from the store portal.
  • I kept the words to a minimum, and relied more on icons and colors. From looking at it, I'm hoping a player can tell that they don't have enough coins, how many coins they need, and how many they will get for how much money.
  • The purchase button is larger than the cancel button.
  • The purchase button is a green color, and the background hue is close to being red. Reading http://www.webpronews.com/colors-that-sell-2003-01 and http://blog.kissmetrics.com/color-psychology, I infer that red color tones communicate energy, excitement, and urgency. Green is associated with life, money, "green means go" and is easiest on the eyes to process. Yes the cancel button is a deep red, but I consider that a standard color for cancelling anything.
In-app screen design aside, here are some other ideas I'm running with in this next update:

DO: Have boosters that players can purchase to win the game more easily.

DON'T: Hide the fact that players can purchase boosters if they don't have any.


DO: Let players purchase a booster immediately when they want to use one and they have none.

DON'T: Make a player go to an entirely different place in the app to purchase something.


DO: Consider allowing players to also earn boosters without purchasing them.

DON'T: Give away so many free boosters that there's no point in purchasing them.


DO: Think carefully about every detail in the appearance of an in-app purchase prompt.

DON'T: Just throw together an in-app purchase screen with minimal effort.


DO: Consider having more expensive boosters to let players win the game more easily than cheaper boosters.

DON'T: Charge $37.99 for a booster.
(Counter-point: If someone is willing to pay $37.99 for it, why stop them?)


DO: Let the player discover they want or need something before presenting the opportunity to purchase it.

DON'T: Harass or pressure players into wanting something with repeated pop-ups or waiting screens.


DO: Consider selling players non-boosters that just make the game more fun, such as hats or skins.

DON'T: Try to sell anything to a player unless you either give them a free sample or explain what the item is for.


DO: Study the in-app flows of popular games similar to yours to learn how players find their products, and see how they are encouraged to buy them.

DON'T: Prioritize making money over making a genuinely fun game or having fun making one.
(Counter-point: It's easy for me to say because this isn't my full time job)


And now, my golden rule of in-apps:

DON'T: Force players to buy anything to finish the game.




You might be interested in this video of David Edery's presentation at 2012 Casual Connect, "your first f2p game, where you will go wrong".

 

 

Looks like a good list of ideas you've come up with, but looking at the screenshot above I see you're only presenting a single price point -- it seems to be pretty common to present multiple price-points, so that a player that is willing to spend more money can do so, usually getting slightly better value for their money. :-)

You might be interested in this video of David Edery's presentation at 2012 Casual Connect, "your first f2p game, where you will go wrong".

 

 

Looks like a good list of ideas you've come up with, but looking at the screenshot above I see you're only presenting a single price point -- it seems to be pretty common to present multiple price-points, so that a player that is willing to spend more money can do so, usually getting slightly better value for their money. :-)

 

That's a good point. Great link too -- when I repost my blog into my IndieDB feed I'll include it and credit you for giving it to me. I think it's too good not to mention.

One tactic I've seen a lot in game is to give away a bunch of your premium currency, and train the player how to use it in the tutorial/early stages in the game. This is an interesting point, as players get used to doing it - it becomes part of their game and it gets you at lot in the early stages, so people take it. But then once they're hooked on your game, the currency runs out and they have to buy more...

 

Another one is to make that "first difficult purchase" really, really easy (and cheap). It's documented in a lot of places that players agonise over their first spend in a F2P game, so why not make it a really simple decision - something that's cheap and gives them a great reward. Look at Candy crush ($0.99 for the first social gate to avoid annoying your friends) or Clash of Clans ($3 for the first builder that you really need early game). Once that first hard spend it out the way, make number 2 even easier... and then you're already easing the player down your funnel.

The coin doesn't really look like a coin to me - that might confuse users.

Minor pick nit: "... you can earn coins by skipping levels."

 

I am assuming your game doesn't work in reverse, granted. Although a negative currency could be an interesting mechanic if worked right.

Minor pick nit: "... you can earn coins by skipping levels."

 

I am assuming your game doesn't work in reverse, granted. Although a negative currency could be an interesting mechanic if worked right.

 

I fixed the journal entry, thanks. The idea of a negative currency is blowing my mind; I think I'll pass on this update.

One question that I would like to pose is, why would players choose to skip levels?

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