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Best Practices For In-Game Purchases: Converting Players To Spenders

How can you get the most of in-game purchases? From defining your audience to nailing your path to purchase, we've rounded up all of the best practices.

in-game purchases cover

Content Crafter at GameAnalytics

Wouldn’t it be awesome if your players spent money within your game all of the time? While building a community that spends actual currency in your game’s environment is certainly difficult, it’s not impossible.

In-app purchases are a huge form of income for the mobile gaming world, and is only getting more and more popular. This chart from Statista shows just how comfortable users are becoming with making purchases on their mobile devices.

in-game purchases statista

The million dollar question every game developer is asking is ‘how can I take advantage of this?’ It all comes back to the game, and your data. By analyzing your users behavior you can better optimize your gameplay so not only will your users have a better experience, you’ll also be able to get them to perform your desired actions.

Before you can do this however, you need to know who your community is, and what their common interests are.

Every time one of your players plays your game, they are giving you valuable data. One user may purchase goods in your store so they can get to the top of the leaderboard, whereas another may just want grind it out. Maximizing the value of these purchases is one of the most effective ways to monetize a game community, but easy to get wrong if not set up correctly.

To give you a helping hand, we’ve rounded up some of the best practices that top performing games and apps all have in common when in comes to in-game purchases.

1: Define your customers: who actually spends money?

Finding out who actually spends money on your game is one of the most important steps in great monetization. But how do you actually define these groups?

There are a bunch of different ways to define and cross-reference your customers in order to collect information. Before you start gathering that info, you need to first know what questions you should be asking.

A few examples are:

  • What are the demographics of my different audience groups like? (age, gender, location)
  • What time and date did they download my game? And where was my game on the app store charts at the time?
  • How long did it take them to make a purchase?

Once you’ve answered these questions, start grouping them into various cohorts. These will then act as your primary audiences, and will shape your games marketing and in-game purchasing decisions.

Think Like A Casino Manager

Casinos define their player audiences by the amount they spend – whales, dolphins, and minnows are common terminology, with the amount spent correlated to the size of the animal.

And of course, like in a casino, your whales will be the smallest group of players, while the minnows are the largest. But that doesn’t make each group any less worthy of attention or less valuable – it’s just a different kind of value.

The whales need the smaller animals to feed off of… and in turn the whales fund or support the game for the minnows and their slightly larger spending counterparts. So all the different groups or cohorts have a symbiotic relationship – which is essential to remember.

Take Care Of The Whales

People only have a limited amount of free time in their busy lives, and convincing them to spend it on your game can be challenging. With so much content out in the world to consume (games, books, films, TV shows and more), it’s vital to know how to keep your players happy so they keep coming back.

And as your largest source of income, you’ll want to get to know who your biggest spenders are. Figure out their demographic, where they are located, what other games they play and apps they use, the operating systems and technology they prefer, and most importantly, why they play your game.

Once you’ve built your whale’s persona, you can determine how best to cater to them with VIP exclusives like special loot, early access to new levels and quests, custom skins, and other exclusive content. Recognize the value of your whales and meet their in-game needs, and you’ll be their favorite dealer.

And The Rest Of Your “In-Game” Marine Life

While the whales get the most attention – and rightfully so – you shouldn’t neglect your other players. After all, different segments of players have different needs, desires, and goals.

Dolphins can grow into whales, and minnows can grow into Dolphins throughout the life cycle of your game, so it’s important to remember to nurture these audiences. What’s more, regulars tend to spend more often, so minnows and dolphins can indeed become bigger in-game spenders over time if you give them reasons to keep coming back.

2. Get To Know Your Cohorts

If you’re at the point in the process where you’re thinking about best practices and in-game purchase optimization, then you’re probably at a stage where can start analyzing your cohorts (here’s a primer in case you’re not familiar with this).

This process can be as simple as understanding the purchase behaviors of your various demographic and behavioral cohorts, to more complex analysis. A good set of factors to get you started with are:

  • At what stage of the game are your different groups at?
  • What type of items do they buy and it’s cost?
  • How long have they had the game installed?
  • How many sessions have they engaged in?

3. Make Buying The Easy Option

In-game purchases shouldn’t be the only way to advance in the game, but should offer some advantage to those players who are willing to spend.

in-game purchase buying

Chances are your big spending players want to advance to the higher levels of your game without the grind, while also spending their hard earned cash on developing a bigger loot box, getting more points, having cooler avatars or weapons, and so on.

Every click or step you make your audience take is another point they can drop off before completing a transaction. You’ll benefit by reducing barriers on in-game purchases and make it as easy as possible to complete a purchase. App store purchases, Paypal, Credit/Debit, or even bitcoin in a streamlined way (that doesn’t take the user out of the game) are all helpful.

Every click or step you make your audience take is another point they can drop off before completing a transaction. Read more on top best practices for in-game purchases - Click To Tweet

Tip: Prompts to purchase should come during natural pauses in the game as well as on the opening, closing, and pause screens.

4. Streamline The Path To Purchase

If a player is going to make an in-game purchase, they are most likely going to make the decision pretty quickly. Data from Amazon’s appstore shows that 37% of customers that are going to eventually make purchases do so the first day they’ve downloaded your game, and what’s more, 48% of spenders spend again within one hour of their first purchase.

in-game purchase path to purchase

Once players have made the decision to invest in your game, they are much, much more likely to become regulars.

As mentioned above, make it as simple as possible for the user to complete a transaction. How you follow up after a purchase is also equally important. Make sure to keep it easy for players to see their balance in the game (in the case of things like gems or other in-game currency/points as illustrated) and how their purchases will be used.

5. Offer Lots Of Choices

Selection makes the heart grow fonder. It can lead to multiple purchases; after all, not a lot of players are going to keep re-purchasing the same in-game items. It gives your users a reason to come back in order to discover what else is available.

Every player has their own style, and no one will approach a game – or what they purchase as they play it – in the exact same way.

in-game purchases choice

In your selection, make sure to include a range of different but consistent price points, so your player can “buy in” according to what their wallet permits, and splurge when they have the budget and desire.

Make sure you include a range of different price options in your mobile game, so your player can “buy in” according to how much they can afford. Read more on the top best practices for in-game purchases - Click To Tweet

Take caution though – research shows that having too many options can discourage people from making a choice altogether, and ultimately not complete any purchase. Experiment with different amounts of options to find what is best for your store.

6. Keep The Price Points Consistent

It’s common to not have every in-game purchase remain the same price.

Although, too many price points can be confusing for even the savviest gamer. Your players may be making purchases while they are within the flow of playing your game, so if you are going to interrupt them with IAP then make sure not to show them conflicting prices and mixed messaging.

in-game purchases price point

Don’t worry however, you still can and should offer different price points for various items (especially discounts or promotions). But having a consistent structure across your catalog of in-game items is essential so your players don’t get frustrated, or even feel cheated.

There are a lot of different optimizations we suggest making to your game, but this isn’t necessarily one of them. Keep those costs consistent and clear. No one likes surprise charges, even if they are tiny.

in-game purchases consistent

7. Use Notifications Wisely

When users are playing your game and there are new items, a sale, power boosts or lives available, sending alerts can be an easy decision that benefits both parties. It can act as a reminder of all the features they can buy to optimise their gameplay, or even help them get past that tricky level.

Don’t overdo it however. Remember Navi from The Legend of Zelda? The supposedly ‘helpful’ fairy just became an annoyance to the player with her constant hints and reminders, and completely devalued anything she had to say.

Keep your notifications relevant, beneficial and timely, but make sure not to pester your players so much that they end up ignoring anything you send their way.

Don’t Forget The Fundamentals

All the best practices in the world won’t matter if you don’t have an engaging game. Users can’t make purchases in a game that they never even play, after all. But optimizing your game for in-app purchases can reap benefits – especially if you design the game with that in mind from the beginning.

For more useful tips and guides on how to best monetize your mobile game, take a look at our Monetization category on our blog.

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Best Practices For In-Game Purchases: Converting Players To Spenders