Tips on Monetization: Storefronting

Monetization is a tricky and diverse field these days.  With more and more of the industry moving into free-to-play and games-as-a-service, monetization strategy and execution are playing an ever greater role in the business success of products and entire companies.  It’s too complex of a problem to address in a single blog post, so instead of trying to cover everything, here’s one specific dynamic.

As designers and developers, we spend a tremendous amount of time and energy finding the fun, communicating to players how to achieve it, and emphasizing it in the game experience.  Are you putting the same amount of time and energy into making spending money fun in your game?  Shopping is something that most people enjoy, especially shopping for themselves.  When presenting a monetization opportunity to your player, think about how the presentation can make the experience better.

For example, in Robot Rising, we started selling equipment about 6 months after the game had launched.  While we saw a decent uptake on this new feature, it wasn’t measuring up to our expectations.  Our initial implementation of this was (as development often is) fairly bare-bones.  You could see the icon for the equipment and the cost, mouse over the icon for detailed stats, and click to purchase.  Our second pass on this feature moved the icon out of the picture, replacing it with a moving, 3D model of the equipment; you could still mouse over the model for detailed stats, but now, what we presented to players was something more “sexy”, aspirational, and solid-looking.  When players bought something, we had a special sound effect and a visual effect that conveyed that the item had been moved to their inventory.

These simple changes increased player purchases significantly, both among newer and more experienced players. The functionality of the equipment hadn’t changed in any way, but the presentation of the buying opportunity made it much more appealing and rewarding to players.  At this point, we started to look at all of the monetization opportunities in our game as “storefronts”, chances to engage a desire that players had, and while it did take additional development resources, the ROI was definitely worth it.  Every game is different, and your monetization strategy and execution need to match your game and your audience, but it’s worth taking a moment to ask yourself how you could make buying things in your game a more tangible and rewarding experience.

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