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Merchant of Record vs. Payment Service Provider: A Simple Guide For Mobile Game Developers

Selling directly to mobile gamers on a web store, outside of Apple or Google’s ecosystem, means you’re responsible for everything needed to sell globally.

That includes processing payments, handling refunds, chargebacks, and fraud, abiding by country-specific regulatory compliance, paying sales tax, and more. 

Publishers who wish to outsource some or all of these responsibilities generally have two types of providers to choose from – a Merchant of Record (MoR) – such as Appcharge, or a Payment Service Provider (PSP) – such as Stripe.

But there’s a big difference between these two solutions and what they cover, which is why we put together this guide. Let’s dive in. 

Merchant of Record vs. Payment Service Provider: A Quick Comparison

FeatureMerchant of Record (MoR)Payment Service Provider (PSP)
Provides payment processing tech 
Connects to banking network
Offers a broad range of payment methods
Protects against fraud(For additional cost)
Handles chargebacks and disputes(For additional cost)
Handles customer service issues(For additional cost)
Responsible for data securityDepends on service
Ensures tax compliance
Acts as the seller of record
Manages financial liability
Simple integration and setupDepends on service
Manages broader legal compliance

What is a Payment Service Provider?

Graphic representation of a digital transaction process using PayPal, featuring a clear and modern interface. The screen shows an option to buy coins for $9.90 with payment methods including Apple Pay, a hyperlink for faster payment, and traditional credit card entry. An orange alert box notes that PayPal only handles transaction facilitation, emphasizing its role in secure transactions

PSPs are the middleman between customer bank accounts and payment methods (like Visa or Paypal). They facilitate the payment transaction, and take a fee for this. 

PSPs do not serve as the legal seller nor do they assist with various other financial responsibilities shown in the table above.   

Examples of PSPs:

Stripe, Nuvei, Checkout.com, Adyen 

What you get with a PSP 

Payment processing: The core function of a PSP is the technology to accept various payment methods, process payments, and connect to the banking network.

Fraud Protection [for additional cost]: Some PSPs will give the option to pay for fraud protection in addition to payment processing. 

Chargebacks and disputes [for additional cost]: Chargebacks are a real financial and time burden for merchants. Some PSPs will offer a service to handle chargebacks for an additional fee.

What kind of gaming company should use a PSP? 

Choosing a PSP instead of an MoR makes sense if your game is heavily focused on one market, and therefore doesn’t need to pay fees for international coverage and global tax compliance. Such companies can still supplement the core payment processing functionality of a PSP with additional features like fraud protection and chargeback support, for extra fees. 

Another scenario in which a PSP might make most sense is when publishers have already built their own D2C ecosystems, with in-house finance specialists. They might need only the payment processing technology of a PSP and not the whole payment operations stack of an MoR. 

What is a Merchant of Record?

Screenshot of a mobile game purchase screen from 'Space Race', featuring a 'Welcome Offer' for $19.90. The offer includes 100,000,000,000 coins, 2 gems, and 2 potions displayed on a vibrant purple and space-themed background. Multiple payment options are shown including Apple Pay, PayPal, and various credit cards. The screen is part of a user interface design, highlighting an interactive and streamlined checkout process

A Merchant of Record is a holistic, one-stop solution for your D2C payments.

Your MoR acts as the seller of record in transactions, assuming full financial liability for transactions, including taxes, chargebacks, and refunds. 

Examples of general MoR companies:

  • Fast Spring
  • Reach 

Examples of gaming-focused MoR companies:

  • Appcharge 
  • Xsolla

What you get with an MOR

Payment processing – An MoR will integrate and maintain multiple B2B payment processors or payment service providers to facilitate payment routing and cascading, reducing the risk of payments being mistakenly declined as fraudulent and resulting in lost revenue.

Fraud protection – An MoR will offer detection of fraudulent orders, manual review of suspicious orders, and custom rules to protect your business.

Merchant Accounts – An MoR will set up multiple merchant bank accounts in countries where you have a significant customer base, enabling you to accept global payments.

Disputes and refunds – An MoR handles payment reconciliation, refunds, and chargebacks, ensuring a smooth process for both you and your customers.

Local entity creation – An MoR will set up local business entities to facilitate merchant accounts, tax registration, payment relationships, and more. 

Currency conversion – To reduce any friction from the user’s payment experience, an MoR will automatically convert the prices to local currencies.

Tax compliance – An MoR will calculate, file, and remit software sales tax in the locations your customers reside in, ensuring compliance with local regulations.

All of these things are required to power global D2C sales – the decision is whether you want to outsource everything to an MoR, or combine a PSP (with limited add-ons) with in-house specialists. 

What kind of gaming company should use an MoR? 

4 6

Publishers selling D2C web store items to a global market, who would rather outsource the complexities this entails to a trusted partner instead of hiring finance teams in-house.    

Merchant of Record vs. Payment Service Provider: Which Option is Best For Mobile Game Publishers?

The boring answer is that it depends. Both options offer varying benefits, but the choice relies heavily on your company’s specific needs, the extent of your global market reach, and how much of the financial and legal responsibilities you’re willing to manage in-house.

We’ll take this moment before you go to mention that we offer gaming-specialized MoR services that are battle-tested with some of the world’s biggest publishers. Should you wish to get in touch to learn more, you can book a demo via our homepage.

4 Creative Strategies For Driving Players to Your Web Store, Inspired by Pokemon GO, Merge Dragons, Candy Crush & Subway Surfers

Building a beautiful and profitable web store is hard enough, but many publishers find that the real challenge begins after their store is built and published.

That’s because they need to create a new behavior among their users: buying in a web store instead of the in-game store. 

If you manage to create this new habit, web stores will be a powerful afterburner to your product revenue.

But changing user behavior is not easy in this context. Here’s why: 

  • It’s quicker for players to buy items in the in-game store vs. an external web store
  • You can’t promote web stores in your game at all in the US
  • In the EU you can mention your external D2C web store in-game, but can’t link directly to it without Apple taking a cut.

So, how do you get players to your web store without getting a slap on the wrist by platforms?

In this article, we will look at 4 creative strategies – covering both best-practices and out-of-the-box tactics. Let’s dive in!

1. Build a social media community

Instagram post from the official Pokémon GO account featuring a 'Great Voyager Box' web-exclusive offer. The image shows an adventurer in a safari outfit peering through binoculars with a backdrop of lush green foliage, alongside a promotional graphic for the Great Voyager Box, teasing in-game items like Super Incubators. The caption announces a limited-time deal, with a call to action to visit the web store. The post has garnered 16,324 likes as of June 1, 2023

For your out-of-app monetization to have a solid foundation for sustainable growth, you must build a community to support it. 

This could be on Facebook, TikTok, Twitch, Discord, Reddit, or wherever else your players hang out. Some useful references:

Once you have an engaged community, weave promotions for your web store into your posting schedule. Promote time-limited offers and special bundles, along with cool features available in your store, such as gifts-for-friends and loyalty programs. 

2. Create an email newsletter 

It might sound left-field, but an email newsletter can be a great way to forge deeper connections with your community. You could do a monthly newsletter that features content about your game. 

For instance:

  • Facts about your characters
  • Interviews with your game designers 
  • Audience-sourced game art
  • News roundups 
  • Upcoming in-game events 

Gram Games are a good example. Since October, 2023, they’ve sent a weekly or biweekly newsletter for their Merge Dragons game, filled with intriguing game facts. These newsletters don’t directly promote their web store, but they consistently draw players to their website where their store is found.

If you manage to create a newsletter your players enjoy reading, you’ll be well-positioned to naturally weave in web store offers and drive traffic to your website. 

To ensure as many visitors convert into buyers, focus on optimizing your store with appealing game art, exclusive offers, and gamification mechanics. 

3. Run real-life events

Outdoor event at a park with a crowd of people gathered under a red bandshell, with a Team Valor flag from Pokémon GO displayed prominently. The city skyline looms in the background under a clear blue sky, indicating an urban setting. The photo has a Polaroid frame, suggesting a snapshot of a community gaming event.

If you’re a publisher with a large, dedicated playerbase, running real life events which brings together your community can be a highly effective way to onboard them onto your web store.

Niantic serves as your north star: they drew in 194,000 people to its three real life Pokemon Go events in 2023, each on a different continent. 

The augmented reality game is naturally suited to real life gamified events; the results are testament to this and the strength of their player engagement. From the New York City event alone:

  • 35 million Pokémon were caught during the Pokémon GO Fest 
  • Attendees walked an average of 18.6 miles while capturing Pokémon and making connections with other Trainers

Not only can Niantic promote their web store using QR codes and other marketing tools during their live events, but they can increase web store interaction before the event too.

As stated on their website: 

“Trainers who purchase their ticket from the Pokémon GO Web Store will receive an exclusive GO Fest 2024 T-shirt avatar item in an exclusive color. Like the GO Fest event badge, the T-shirt will arrive closer to the date of the Pokémon GO Fest event.”

Creating and executing a real life event is no easy task – consider pairing it with popular trade shows like Gamescom, where publishers run an array of fan-focused activities. You can create a separate event for your VIP players who are already in town for the tradeshow, for example. 

4. Leverage brand collaborations

Animated characters from the game Candy Crush in a pink convertible car, with whimsical candy-themed decorations, celebrating alongside a Barbie character, promoting the Candy Crush Saga and Barbie collaboration. A tag shows the Barbie logo with a reminder that the movie is in theaters July 21

With a growing number of businesses looking at games as a channel for brand marketing campaigns, publishers should capitalize on this opportunity to turn their web stores into hubs of exciting and exclusive branded content.

Here’s how that might look:

– Integrate brand collaboration into your game

– Leverage the excitement to offer one-off items in your store themed around the brand 

– To maximize conversions, offer exclusive deals and update store game art 

– Make sure the brand actively promotes your web store as part of the collaboration terms

To make this concept more concrete, here are a few collaboration references which you could apply the above blueprint to:

  • Candy Crush Saga x Barbie Movie: they collaborated on an in-game event which introduced Barbie-themed quests.
  • Fornite x LEGO: over 1,200 Fortnite outfits received an additional LEGO Style, playable in the game’s new LEGO®-themed experiences
  • Clash of Clans/Royale x Chess.com: Clash of Clans and Clash Royale launched chess-themed seasons, including chess Hero Skins and exclusive cosmetics. In addition, Chess.com featured Clash-inspired chess pieces and the chance to play chess with Clash characters. 

Final takeaways

If we look through the above strategies, we can see a theme. Be it a newsletter, social media channel, real life event, or brand collaboration, these strategies all serve to create and nurture a vibrant out-of-app ecosystem around a game that naturally complements web stores.  

Until publishers can link directly to web stores from inside their games without losing revenue or getting penalized (don’t hold your breath), leveraging out-of-app channels will continue to be key to driving traffic to your web store.

And if you’re looking for the best converting web store builder in the market, head to Appcharge.com and book a free demo.

Mobile Game Monetization: 4 Tactics to Level Up Your Web Store Sales Funnel

As mobile game publishers aim to strengthen their business fundamentals, financial resilience, and autonomy, going direct-to-consumer is a strategic imperative in 2024. 

With the biggest publishers in the market steaming ahead in the web store space, it’s time to equip the wider market with the knowledge needed to truly capitalize on this opportunity.

Below, we share battle tested methods for taking users from first time visitors all the way through to repeat buyers. We’ve seen these tactics work wonders for major publishers using Appcharge’s white label web store platform, so you don’t want to miss them. Let’s dive in. 

1. First visit

01

Driving players to your web store for the first time is your immediate priority. To do this, you need to have an online community.

From your community, create awareness of the web store while emphasizing its hyper-clear value. 

See the example above. The text is extremely clear, and the banner image repeats the same message: ‘Want to DOUBLE the amount of coins at the SAME price?’ 

Tip:

Use Appcharge features such as Sale, Special Offer, and Customized Art to emphasize your message and the value of your store. 

2. Repeated visit

02

Our data shows that most first-time purchases occur after 2 to 3 visits to your web store. So, once you get users to take the first step – entering your web store for the first time – your focus needs to be on getting them to come back. 

Keep reaching out to your community and sharing the store’s special value, and create a feeling of FOMO (fear of missing out) to drive repeated visits. 

This is where gamification elements play an important role. Daily Bonus mechanics, for example, are a great way to entice players back into your web store. 

Tip: Use Appcharge features such as Daily Bonus, Daily Offers, and Seasonal Offers to increase retention.

3. First purchase

03

To encourage players to finish their window shopping and actually make their first purchase, make sure you give an enticing welcome offer.

Too many publishers use welcome offers that are the same as the offers in their in-game store. But to secure the First Time Deposit (FTD), you need to give more. After all, from the moment a player makes their first purchase, they’re more likely to make repeat purchases.

Monetization managers are justifiably concerned by potential game economy leaks by offering too much, but with welcome offers, you can afford to be slightly more generous than usual. 

Also, consider making this offer time-limited and availability-limited, which will create a sense of urgency to encourage the purchase. 

Finally, make sure your offers are visually appealing: use dedicated art and vibrant colors to maximize conversion.

Tip: Use Appcharge features such as Segments and First Time Offers to make the UX as personalized and relevant as possible to every user.

4. Repeat purchase

04

The goal of your web store is to drive repeat purchases from your players. To do this, you need to make it a fun and gamified experience that consistently gives valuable offers. 

As you add new meta gameplay and LiveOps events to your game, for instance, consider offering updated web store bundles that cater specifically to these new game features.

Also make sure to use real time segmentation, which creates a personalized UX for different groups of users (you define these segments in your Appcharge dashboard). 

Tip: Use Appcharge features such as Accumulation Bars and Endless Promotions to encourage repeat purchases.

Web Stores: The Secret Behind the Most Profitable Mobile Games Publishers

From Niantic to Rovio, Moon Active to Supercell, nearly all the major mobile game publishers launched a web store in 2023.

By creating out-of-app sales channels, these publishers unlocked a powerful tool that not only boosts their bottom line, but also deepens player engagement and LTV.

Appcharge’s mission is to democratize the web store opportunity by providing mobile game publishers a powerful, white label platform to handle all their DTC needs.

Book a demo to see how we can take you into mobile gaming’s new DTC era.

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.

Google Play Proposes Third-Party Payments in the UK – But is it a Good Deal for Developers?

Google has proposed opening up the Google Play store to third-party payment systems in the UK in a move that would see it take a reduced revenue share. But all is not as it seems.

The proposal, if enacted, would enable developers who provide options for both Google Pay and alternative billing to have Google’s revenue cut reduced by 4% to a 26% share (or 11% on their first $1 million)—if users pay through a different payment service provider (PSP). However, if developers do not offer Google Pay as an option, they will be penalised and the standard platform fee would only be cut by 3% to 27% (or 12% on their first $1 million). 

Should users choose to pay with Google Pay, the revenue share will remain at a 70/30 split.

The changes would be rolled out for non-gaming apps first, before eventually allowing games developers to be eligible for the new billing rates and options “no later than October 2023”.

Google claims this would help ensure a “smooth transition for developers and to allow for the necessary changes to be made to our systems”. For context: In Q1 2023, data.ai estimates a large majority of worldwide consumer spending on Google Play came from the games category. It’s effectively a cash cow that is often treated differently by mobile platform holders than other categories.

The proposed changes would only impact in-app purchases in the UK, though similar actions have been taken in other countries.

Why Proposes Third-Party Payments Now?

Google’s announcement comes in response to an investigation by the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), which began in June 2022, to look into “suspected anti-competitive conduct” by the tech giant. A particular focus of the ongoing investigation concerns Google Play’s rules which “oblige app developers offering digital content to use Google Play’s own billing system for in-app purchases”.

In response, on April 19, 2023, Google outlined the above changes to its rules and the CMA has now opened a call for feedback on the proposals. Public consultation on the new commitments will run until May 19, 2023. Following the end of the investigation and feedback from the public, the CMA will decide whether to accept or reject the changes.

At present, the CMA’s position is that it believes the new commitments from Google are “sufficient to address the competition concerns”. While no final decision has been made, pending consultation, the CMA has proposed to accept the changes.

What Do the Changes Really Mean?

Any climbdown from the standard 30% revenue share should be considered significant, as Apple and Google fight tooth and nail to retain the status quo. This latest proposal is another example of platform holders making as small a concession as possible to retain their lucrative cash cows.

But while it may seem like a concession, for developers, the reality is that it will not make a notable difference to their businesses on the current terms. A reduction of 3% to 4% will not cover the costs of using an alternative billing system, where the revenue share is often 5% or more (AppCharge takes a 5% cut per transaction).

PSPs charge such fees to cover the costs of billing, invoicing, fraud, chargeback cover, etc. Such a small reduction in Google’s share means that, should customers use another payment system, it would actually cost developers a greater share of their revenue, not reduce it.

Google has claimed that such a reduction is enough to cover developers’ “average payment processing costs” while also leaving a margin for customer support and other payment processing services. 

These terms mean that Google Pay keeps its position as the preferential payment method, while creating a challenging environment for alternative options. And of course, in any event, Google will continue to maintain its standard 30% share on all Google Pay transactions, thus effectively retaining the status quo. Of course, if you’d like to discuss potential alternative PSPs for an both in-app and out-of-app solution, you can speak to the AppCharge team.

Rick VanMeter, executive director of advocacy group The Coalition for App Fairness, which champions app store reform, told TechCrunch he believes the proposals would enable Google to “continue taking a massive cut on services they do not even provide”. He added: “This solution will not create meaningful competition and is a bad deal for developers and consumers.”

It remains to be seen whether the CMA will ultimately accept or reject Google’s proposals, and what the future of third-party payments will look like on the marketplace in the UK.

Regulatory Pressure

Apple and Google have both come under increasing pressure around the world over concerns about anti-competitive practices, namely over the exclusive use of their own payment systems in their app stores. 

Google was hit with a $162 million fine by the Competition Commission of India over anti-competitive practices in October 2022. Following this, as part of efforts to appease the regulator, Google announced in February 2023 that it would support third-party billing systems on Google Play in the country, reducing its fee by 4% for transactions made through alternative payment services.

It had previously introduced a similar measure in South Korea, following strong regulatory pressure and criticism. A smaller reduction of 3% in its fees for purchases made through other PSPs has also been enacted in the European Economic Area (EEA).

The UK proposal is now following suit with its previous successful negotiations with regulators.

Out-of-App Solutions

While it’s a positive step for Google to introduce alternative billing systems on its UK Play store, the current proposals aren’t a particularly attractive proposition. For developers really looking to take advantage of the $30 billion opportunity in the mobile games market – which is the amount of revenue the App Store and Google Play took last year from in-app purchases – the best solution still remains in utilising web stores.

By bringing your community of players to a web store, developers can offer better deals to players, all while retaining a higher share of revenue. Regulators continue to chip away at the app store monopolies, but the industry is a long way off from a fairer deal for all.

The Mobile Game Web Store Designer’s Playbook

There’s a monumental shift happening in the mobile games industry. Since Epic Games’ lawsuit against Apple centering around a dispute over the right to use its own payment system in Fortnite on the App Store—rather than being forced to use Apple Pay—governments and regulators around the world have increased their scrutiny over potentially monopolistic app store practices.

Specifically, their concerns have focused on the 70/30 revenue split, whether it’s fair, and whether companies should be able to integrate their own or other third-party payment systems. There has been resistance from Apple and Google so far, but that hasn’t stopped publishers from opening their own web stores to skirt around the app store tax. The clock appears to be ticking on the established revenue share model and moving in favour of the creators, not the platform holders.

Web stores for mobile games represent a $30 billion+ opportunity for developers and publishers—the market generated an estimated $110 billion from global player spending in 2022, according to data.ai, with approximately 30% sucked up by platform fees.

But it’s not a simple case of ‘build it and they will come’. Creating a successful web store and getting players to use it requires a thoughtful strategy—but the Appcharge team has you covered. We’ve put together a list of top tips to help you build the best web store possible so you can unlock a new, potentially lucrative revenue stream that’s free of the 30% app store tax (in fact, Appcharge only takes about 5% for powering your transactions).

Web Store Monetization: Best Practices

Price IAPs Differently

For web stores to fulfil their potential, they must differentiate their offers to those available in the in-game store.

On a web store, purchases such as currency, boosters, cosmetics, season passes—anything you have to sell—can and should be priced differently. Without having to worry about losing 30% of each in-app purchase off the bat, developers can give players better deals reflective of a transaction’s true value, which can lead to better engagement and a more enjoyable spending experience.

Developers can also price outside the parameters of the app stores. Previously the App Store capped in-app purchases at $1,000, though these rules have since been relaxed.

Leverage Personalization and Segmentation

One of the best methods of making a shop successful is to surface personalized deals to your players, segmenting them based on their playing habits, their progress, and personal profile.

Everything can be personalized for different user segments: a user’s first time visit experience, prices, types of offers and items, accumulation bar size, and so on.

This creates a better experience for players, who receive only the most relevant offers. In turn, you can maximize conversions and user LTV.

Integrate Gamification Mechanics

A mockup of a mobile game web store account interface demonstrating gamification elements. It features a user profile with accumulated 'Royalty points' and progress towards a 'sugar candy' reward. An 'Exclusive' tag is displayed next to a vibrant graphic of assorted candies, representing a special offer, the 'Candy Royalty bundle'. The 'Visit Store' call-to-action button suggests a seamless transition to shopping within the game's ecosystem, set against a dynamic purple background

To really maximise their potential, web stores should provide a similar experience to what players have in-game. Making purchases should be part of the fun, not just a bland experience for the simple purpose of making a transaction.

Gamification mechanics such as Stamp Cards, Accumulation Bars, Daily Rewards, Coupons, and Loyalty Programs should be incorporated to ensure users don’t just visit your web store once, but make it part of their gaming routine.

Build a Community

A screenshot of an Instagram post from the official Pokémon GO account, featuring a 'Great Voyager Box' as a web store exclusive deal. The image includes an in-game explorer character with binoculars, a styled treasure box, and a jungle backdrop. The accompanying caption promotes a limited-time offer on Super Incubators and more. The post has received 16,324 likes and displays a date of June 1, 2023.

As of April 2024, it is not possible for U.S developers to directly link to an external store from inside their app. It recently became possible for EU developers to link out to web stores, however this will lead them to lose 17% should a user click the link and complete a purchase within seven calendar days from the token issue date (plus another 3% if they’re using Apple’s payment tech).

To bypass these taxes and drive players to your web store, an out-of-app community is crucial.

Many of the world’s top publishers excel at building communities around their top games. Perhaps the best example is Niantic, whose Instagram page for Pokemon Go has 2.2 million followers, and whose in-person Pokemon Go events drew almost 300,000 players in 2023.

Learn more about the Pokemon Go web store design here.

Few publishers will be able to reach this level of community, but every publisher can begin building en engaged community outside of theirs app, whether on Discord, social media, email newsletters, and/or dedicated websites.

Going direct-to-player with web stores is all about owning your audience. And having a thriving, owned community is an integral part of this. Bringing your most loyal players into a close-knit community outside of the game can not only improve their enjoyment of it, but it provides a chance for you to engage directly with them.

This could come in the form of getting feedback on the latest updates, or having the ability to direct them to special deals on your web store that could get them more bang for their buck thanks to the lack of store fees.

Capitalize on the Shift to Web Stores

Web stores help you design your game economy differently, in a way that offers players better deals and puts more of the revenue generated to where it should go: you, the developer. By implementing the tips in this article—offering better deals, personalizing offers, gamifying the experience, and building a community—developers are well placed to take advantage of this opportunity.

The world’s biggest mobile games companies, including Clash of Clans developer Supercell, Star Trek: Fleet Command publisher Scopely, and RAID: Shadow Legends’ Plarium, are all doing it. Now’s your chance to join them.

Appcharge is helping some of the biggest publishers in the world create and manage powerful D2C web stores, supported by comprehensive Merchant of Record services.

If you’re interested in speaking with a member of our team, book a demo via our homepage.

Beyond the App Store: The Future of IAP Monetization

The future of in-app monetization is, well, out-of-app.

With Apple’s deprecation of the IDFA and longstanding refusal to adjust their 30% tax on developers, in addition to an overall drop in game revenue across the board, the mobile gaming landscape has been feeling the strain. 

But the industry received a lifeline thanks to Tim Sweeney and Epic Games. As a result of their much publicized legal battle with Apple, it was ruled that app developers can, through communication with users outside of the app only, direct them to their own external web stores to purchase in-game items, bypassing Apple’s 30% commission. 

While industry giants have been quietly building out their web stores with in-house resources, the vast majority of studios don’t have the war chest to do the same. And so we launched Appcharge. Our mission? To revolutionize IAP monetization with a direct-to-player monetization platform that gives developers a headstart from the get-go, rather than a handicap. 

Keep reading to learn more about the rise of mobile game web stores and how you can use Appcharge to power your direct-to-player monetization strategy. 

The growing importance of out-of-app monetization 

Looked at solely through the lens of bypassing Apple’s 30% tax, web stores are a no brainer for games. But the need for web stores is made increasingly urgent when you consider three trends that are making monetization of game items all the more crucial in our industry. 

The emergence of games-as-a-service model

Gamers have increasingly high expectations of what a game should be; games are expected to constantly evolve, add new features and experiences. On one side of the coin, this puts a strain on the budgets of studios, who need to hire liveops teams. 

On the other side of the coin, a natural product of a liveops strategy is greater room for IAP monetization. New battle passes, in-game items, and special offers are hallmarks of liveops strategies – it’s just when you cut 30% off from all transactions, there isn’t much room for error in order for the investment on those liveops salaries to pay dividends. 

Webstores represent a major boost to liveops-focused games. Not only do they provide studios with more breathing space and better return on their liveops investment by bypassing Apple’s 30% cut, but they actually facilitate more robust and engaging offers for users. From highly personalized offers to new loyalty programs, webstores serve as the backbone of a profitable and sustainable liveops strategy.

From hypercasual to hybrid casual

The second trend that highlights the growing importance of IAP monetization is hypercasual’s shift to hybrid casual in recent years. Apple’s deprecation of the IDFA essentially killed the hypercasual industry, which relied on hyper-efficient, targeted user acquisition, and quick ad monetization from users with low LTVs. 

This model has been jeopardized as a result of Apple’s changes: revenue generated by hypercasual games dropped 10% in 2022 compared to 2021, down to $12.3bn from $13.7bn.

As a result, hypercasual developers are being forced to find ways to add deeper layers to their games, in order to increase user retention and LTV, and add IAP monetization to the previously ad-focused model. 

Overall reduction in ad monetization 

It’s not just the hypercasual category that’s feeling the heat. Following the IDFA apocalypse, games across the board are spending less aggressively on UA. 

Consequently, 2022 saw a reduction in eCPMs compared to the previous year, causing games to earn less money from ads. And it’s unclear if the industry will recover to its pre-IDFA levels of ad monetization in the near future.

In order to survive, games must build out their IAP monetization strategies.

Direct to player: A new era in gaming

A perfect storm

All of these forces, and the Apple-Epic legal case, combined to create a perfect storm for the rise of D2C web stores in mobile gaming. 

Industry leaders like Supercell, Niantic, Moon Active, Playtika and Scopely, all of whom monetize heavily from IAPs, already launched web stores for their hit games. Numerous others have followed suit.   

The benefits to game developers of D2P web stores are obvious: a significant uplift to their profit from sales of game items. Instead of losing 30% of all revenue to Apple, developers who build their own online stores pocket all of the fee. 

Challenges of web stores

However, there are challenges posed by web stores. Firstly, Apple forbids games from advertising their external stores inside their apps – meaning developers need to find alternative ways to inform users. For large, legacy publishers with strong followings on social media, this isn’t such a big issue. For smaller outfits who are still building their brand, it requires some thinking – like partnering with influencers and building a strong community.

It’s also much more convenient for a user to make an IAP within the game, rather than going to an external web store. Because of this, developers will need to find a way to incentivize this change in user behavior. However, given the large boost to their margins afforded by web store transactions, discounts and incentives like loyalty programs can be offered to get the ball rolling and begin changing user habits. 

Lastly, using in-house tech to build and maintain a web store, in addition to supporting global payments and compliance, requires time and significant investment. Appcharge’s co-founder actually led the development of Moon Active’s web store and knows first-hand how time consuming and expensive it can be. Giant companies like Moon Active can afford to do this, but most others need a third-party tool that makes it easy to launch a web store. 

Enter: Appcharge.

Appcharge: Powering the D2C mobile gaming economy 

Appcharge offers a white-label web store platform for mobile game developers. Taking just a 5% cut from purchases, our platform allows for total customization, with developers able to design every aspect of their store, use gamification elements to boost engagement and encourage repeat purchases, set up segmentation to provide the most relevant offers for all users, and seamlessly handle payments and billing. 

The best part?

After the initial integration to update the balance in customer accounts, the entire D2P monetization strategy can be managed by live ops and monetization managers – no technical development needed. 

Compared to building your own web store, this saves significant resources and allows teams to focus on building out a winning D2P strategy that improves user engagement, strengthens retention, and increases repeat purchases. 

The future of IAP monetization is here, and we’re proud to be leading the way. 

Unlock Your Game’s True Revenue Potential with Appcharge

Ready to transform your game’s monetization strategy and reap the rewards of out-of-app web stores? Get started with Appcharge today and watch your revenue skyrocket while creating a more engaging and personalized experience for your players.

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