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The Appcharge Manifesto

When we launched Appcharge in 2022, we knew we wanted to not only bring positive change to the mobile games industry, but also do things differently. 

Taking publishers into the direct-to-consumer (DTC) ecosystem is a big responsibility, one that can achieve an elusive win-win combination for players and publishers alike. 

A win for players, who get more value for their money plus a fun experience to complement their gameplay; and a win for publishers, who increase their financial resilience, their autonomy, and their game’s retention rates and user LTVs. 

Recognizing the sheer value of the DTC opportunity we could unlock for the industry, and the shortcomings of existing solutions in the market, myself and my co-founders sat down and, over many brainstorming sessions, refined Appcharge’s core manifesto. 

Our non-negotiables, our principles, and the value we knew we had to unwaveringly provide our customers with. Here they are.

A vibrant web banner featuring the bold statement 'Publishers Must Own Their Audience' in white against a vivid orange background. The banner integrates circular portrait cut-outs of diverse individuals engaged in gaming or possibly streaming, emphasizing the human element of digital content publishing and the importance of direct audience connection.

The days of being totally at the mercy of the traditional gatekeepers are over. 

It’s not only a right, but also a strategic imperative for mobile game publishers to truly own their audience, to sell to players on their terms, to not lose 30 per cent on every transaction, and to take back what’s theirs. 

It feels quite revolutionary in spirit, but it shouldn’t be. 

We’re just facilitating what should have already been possible: the right to sell directly to players.

2 The Web Store Opportunity Must Be Democratized 1

The strategic advantage publishers gain by going direct-to-consumer with web stores is clear.

The biggest publishers like Rovio, Supercell, Moon Active and Scopely have all built web stores in-house, pouncing on the DTC opportunity early. 

But here’s the thing: most other publishers can’t afford to build a web store internally. It simply takes too much time and costs too much money, when their manpower needs to be razor focused on existing development and game design tasks.  

With the gap already widening between the biggest publishers and the rest – a quick look at the top grossing charts shows the domination of legacy games and studios – it’s clear that the industry needs a more level playing field in the realm of web stores.

That’s why we created a white label web store platform, to enable mobile game publishers of all sizes to access the DTC opportunities that the largest companies are already capitalizing on. 

3 A Personalized Ux Must Be Prioritized

Our team’s background at mobile gaming titans such as Moon Active, one of the most sophisticated publishers in terms of their data centric culture and use of segmentation, helped us crystalize our product strategy and vision:

For a web store to be fun, it must provide a personalized, relevant experience to every user. 

And so we set off to build a robust segmentation tool that lets publishers serve their players the most relevant offers and web store UI, in real time. 

Whether the user is entering the web store for the first time or they’re a long-time spender, whether they’re entering the store for the fifth day in a row or returning after a month away, we give publishers the tech they need to serve a personalized experience that delights players and maximizes their LTV.

4 Web Stores Should Be Fun

We saw how existing game web stores looked and felt, and we wanted to help publishers do things better.

Too many web stores focused too much on selling, while forgetting a crucial part of the puzzle: fun. No publisher would launch a game that isn’t fun, and we firmly believe that this ethos extends to web stores too. 

Players should enjoy spending time in web stores – it should feel like an extension of the game experience. That’s why gamification mechanics are a core feature of Appcharge’s web store builder. 

5 Web Stores Platforms Should Be Transparent

Breaking out of the walled gardens maintained by the gatekeepers is all about retaking control of your games business. 

A web store platform that is secretive, vague, or misleading with its fee structure goes against the very ethos of leading publishers into the direct-to-consumer ecosystem.  

That’s why Appcharge will always be clear and reasonable with our fee structure. 

We’re here to help publishers win, not to empty their pockets. 

6 Web Stores Should Be Built By Gaming Experts Not Suits

Great products are built by people who truly get the needs of the niche they’re serving. 

Appcharge’s platform was built by product and monetization veterans from leading companies like Moon Active and Rovio, where they had hands-on experience building a web store internally.

And we believe that for a web store platform to truly meet the needs of games publishers, it must be built by experts who’ve been in the trenches of mobile gaming. 

This ethos permeates our customer success strategy: we work as an extension of our customers’ monetization team, consulting them in order to push their DTC strategies forward. 

7 Handling Payments Shouldnt Eat Into Your Margins

Those who try to justify the 30 percent tax taken by Apple and Google point to the payment complexities they take care of.

It’s true: managing payments is a complex, intimidating task. 

However, publishers shouldn’t have to sacrifice such a significant chunk of their hard-earned profits just for payment technology and Merchant of Record services. 

We believe there is a fairer way, a way that leaves publishers with a feeling that they have a partner to grow with, not a giant to shake them down.

Mobile Game Web Stores: Should You Build or Buy Your Tech?

In 2023, nearly every major mobile games publisher launched a web store. There’s a reason for this: by carving out a direct-to-consumer sales platform, publishers bypass the traditional 30% fees on all transactions. In doing so, they can provide users with exclusive and generous offers while significantly increasing profit margins. 

It’s a much-needed win for publishers, who are feeling the squeeze due to challenging industry trends, and it’s also a win for players, who receive far more value for their money in the offers presented to them in web stores. 

With these tailwinds, we expect to see a surge in web store adoption in 2024 from both medium and large sized publishers. Which begs the question: how do you actually create a web store?

There are two key components: creating a functional store, and handling the payment operations to enable global sales.

To do this, you can either build out your web store and its payment operations in-house, use a white label, out-of-the-box web store platform to do everything, or use a combination of both (for example, developing your own store but outsourcing your payment needs to a web store platform). 

By the end of this guide, you’ll understand the pros and cons of these approaches and be a step closer to executing your game’s web store.

Let’s dive in. 

What’s behind a successful mobile game web store?

A blurred background with vibrant shapes highlights a checklist for a successful mobile game web store. Key points include a robust Merchant of Record infrastructure for payments, captivating design and fun user experience, gamification mechanics, regular updates to offers and events, resources for frequent new content testing, and behavior-based player segmentation

The list shown above demonstrates just some of the key components of a mobile game web store. 

With this in mind, let’s take a look at the pros and cons of building a web store in-house from scratch, before looking at the alternative approach – leveraging a white-label platform where the tech is already taken care of.  

Building your own game web store from scratch

The pros of building your own web store

Full autonomy

Building a web store in-house means your tech and tools belong solely to your company. You’ll always be in full control, eliminating any risks posed by the reliance on a third-party vendor, and keeping communication internal – especially useful if you have a big team. 

In addition, your web store will become part of your studio’s core technology stack, adding value to your company.

Complete customization

When you have a team of in-house engineers and product designers building your web store from scratch, you’re able to mold your store whatever way you’d like to meet the specific needs of your game. 

That’s an attractive proposition for many developers, but it comes with a cost. Dedicating a team to not only take a web store from 0 to 1 but then maintain and customize it constantly once it’s live is a major commitment, both in time and money. 

Higher margins on sales

White label web store solutions take anywhere from 5% to 15% per transaction. While still a far cry from the traditional platforms’ 30% cut, some developers may deem it worth the investment to avoid fees altogether by building their web store in-house.

This means they can pocket the highest possible margins per transaction. However, that must be weighed against the considerable cost of hiring a dedicated team of engineers and product designers to build and manage the store. 

The cons of building your own web store

It’s expensive and time-consuming 

Some studios with enough manpower can put together a team from their existing workforce to at least build an MVP of a web store. 

But to build a robust web store, equipped with all the functionality and features that keep players coming back and making repeat purchases, you’ll need to hire a team of specialist engineers and product designers. 

We’ve seen large publishers dedicate 10 to 15 people to building a web store. Not only is it a lengthy process to hire the right people, but once you have them it also takes considerable time to build and launch the store. That’s expensive – both in time and in money. 

Being your own Merchant of Record is a headache

When you start selling to players outside of the traditional App Stores, which take care of all Merchant of Record services as part of their 30% cut, you take on this responsibility for facilitating global payments.

Becoming your own Merchant of Record means hiring experts to handle local taxes, currencies, exchange rates, invoicing, billing and fraud prevention. This newfound responsibility also introduces the risk of exceeding chargeback limits, potentially resulting in penalties or even the blocking of your game by payment providers.

If you want to build your web store in-house but feel overwhelmed by the idea of managing these financial intricacies, opting for a gaming-focused MOR provider can make a lot of sense [holistic web store platforms like Appcharge offer both an MOR solution and a web store builder].

Maintenance and management is an ongoing burden

A successful web store isn’t completed once it’s been launched. Just like a mobile game, it is a living, breathing entity that requires constant iteration and optimization. 

If you build your web store internally, every change to your web store – from new artwork to new gamification mechanics – will require development work. Ultimately, this slows down your time-to-market for every iteration and creates operational overheads.

Building your own web store: a brief summary

Building your D2C web store in-house gives you the ownership, control, customization, and margins per transaction to make top-grossing games. 

Whether this is the best route for your company really depends on your team size, expertise, financial resources, and capacity to execute with speed and quality.

The challenge? 

Well, you’re looking at a minimum of five highly-skilled (and very expensive) software engineers just to get you started. 

Once you’ve found them, they need to become closely intertwined with the game development, LiveOps, and game monetization teams, ensuring that as new features, events, and offers are added to the game and product roadmap, the web store is able to support these initiatives simultaneously. 

All the while, you need to ensure all of this effort is supported by robust Merchant of Record services to handle the complex world of payments. 

Using a white-label web store for your mobile game

A digital payment interface featuring a credit card mockup with the text 'Pay $12.99' on a button. In the background, a smartphone displays a treasure chest graphic, symbolizing an in-app purchase. To the right, currency symbols for Euro and Dollar are visible, suggesting international payment options. The backdrop is a muted gray, with a snippet of code visible on a secondary device, indicating technical backend processes.

Using a white-label platform, instead of developing your own technology, is a more efficient way to build out your mobile game web store. But is more efficient actually better? Let’s see.

The pros of using web store tech for your game

When chosen smartly, ready-made and purpose-built web store technology can supercharge your mobile game’s bottom line profit. Let’s take a look at four of the top reasons why.

Maximize your profits

Hiring a team of specialist engineers and product designers to develop just a ‘vanilla’ or MVP version of your web store can take around 4 months and is expensive.

Fortunately, in the same way you can bypass the traditional app stores’ 30% fees by launching a web store, you can also bypass the aforementioned development costs by leveraging an out-of-the-box platform, which has done all the heavy-lifting for you. 

Not only does this save you significant development costs, but it expedites your time to market so you can start selling items faster. More on that below.

Faster time-to-market

With a seamless API integration using a white label platform, you can get a web store to market in a matter of weeks. One based on battle-tested technology and with all the features you need to succeed. Compare that to the time it takes to actually begin earning from an internally built web store – remember you need to assemble a team of specialists, develop a platform, and ship it – you’re saving a huge amount of time. And time is money.   

Payments taken care of

Payment infrastructure is one of the biggest headaches faced by publishers who opt to build web stores in-house. A white-label web store platform like Appcharge handles all of your Merchant of Record needs, which is a game-changer for any company facing down the prospect of hiring experts to handle local taxes, currencies, exchange rates, invoicing, billing, chargebacks, and fraud prevention. 

Easy updates and optimization

The right white-label web store platform makes it easy to update your store with new designs, art work, gamification mechanics, special offers, and more. 

Given that most games these days operate as live services with dynamic LiveOps and frequent optimization, it’s crucial that you can update your web store frequently and without unnecessary hassle to keep up with this cadence.   

Build or buy: A big decision for your mobile game monetization

An e-commerce web page mockup showcasing in-game currency purchase options. The display features cards with gold coins for $3.00, a pink gem for $2.90, a green gem for $1.90, and a treasure chest for $4.00. Above, a user interface shows a balance of 80 purple gems and 20 gold shields with an exchange rate, set against a muted gray background with a color palette selection tool at the bottom

The allure of ownership and control, customization, and higher margins per transaction may tempt some publishers to build a web store in-house. Some might opt for developing the store only and outsourcing the MOR part, to alleviate some of the burden. Others might decide to keep the whole thing in-house, from payments to store development. Either way, the required investment in time, effort, and resources is considerable. 

On the other side of the spectrum, a holistic white-label web store platform allows game developers to build a robust web store with all its payments and MOR needs taken care of in a matter of weeks. This speed-to-market, both for launching and for adding new features in the future, is invaluable.

Equally crucial, outsourcing helps to maximize profits by avoiding hefty development costs, with platforms like Appcharge charging just a 5% fee per transaction. 

Another important advantage of working with a web store platform is leveraging their expertise, so you can always stay at the forefront of D2C innovation and ensure your strategy is guided by specialists.

If you’re curious what to look for when choosing the right web store platform, this article should be helpful.

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