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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.

Web Store Walkthroughs: Pokemon Go by Niantic

Welcome to the first edition of our Web Store Walkthrough series! Our goal for creating this series is to share the web store expertise of the Appcharge team with the games industry. 

With over a decade of combined experience in the trenches of mobile gaming at top companies such as Moon Active, and now building the leading direct-to-consumer web store platform for games publishers, it’s fair to say we know what we’re talking about. 

In each article, we’ll analyze a different mobile game web store, and show you what they’re doing well and what could be improved. We’ll unpack:

  • The onboarding strategy
  • The user experience
  • The monetization strategies
  • The payment UX
  • Social media and community mechanics 

Without further ado, let’s jump into our first walkthrough: Pokemon Go by Niantic. 

Introduction to Pokemon Go

By far the highest grossing Augmented Reality mobile game, taking under six years to surpass the $6 billion milestone, Pokemon Go has managed to preserve its success since its launch in 2016, being downloaded over 678 million times globally.

Its dedicated web store draws in approximately 2.6 million monthly visitors (according to Semrush data), offering an extended aspect of the game beyond the confines of a smartphone. This high number should not come as a surprise – after all, Pokemon Go drew in 194,000 people to its three real life events in 2023. With that level of community engagement and brand strength, Niantic is in a tremendous position.

Pokemon Go: Web Store Analysis

1

Onboarding strategy

  • The store is accessible to everyone through a direct link, displaying deals and prices transparently to both registered users and guests.
  • Key navigational elements include two prominent buttons: one for signing in and another for redeeming offers. As players scroll, they encounter various deals, each accompanied by a distinct ‘BUY’ button.
  • The user experience introduces a playful twist for guest users. Upon selecting the ‘BUY’ button, guests are first presented with a full-screen view of the deal before being prompted to sign in. This approach subtly integrates the purchase process into the user journey.
2

User Experience (UX) Evaluation

First impressions: Design and layout

  • The homepage immediately captures attention with an animated Growlithe and in-game items like a straw hat, a red team uniform, an incubator, and a gift box with a purple bow. It shows a clear message to describe the web store: a destination for exclusive deals and extra coins. This straightforward approach contrasts that taken by other publishers, such as Scopely’s web store for Star Trek Fleet Command. Here, it isn’t clearly stated in the header image that this is the place for special deals – in fact, visitors can’t access any deals without logging in.  
  • The layout is structured to reveal deals only as the user scrolls, ensuring each deal receives dedicated full-screen attention. The simplicity of the presentation – one package per deal with no bundles or extras – ensures a clutter-free and direct user experience.

Navigation: Ease of Finding Key Elements

  • Navigation is intuitive and user-friendly. Users are not overwhelmed by options, making it virtually impossible to get lost or confused. The primary choices are straightforward: log in or scroll through the deals.

Call-to-Action (CTA): Effectiveness and Clarity

  • The purchase button is prominently displayed in green, standing out clearly for easy and quick transactions.

Design and Gamification

Presentation of the Game: Visuals, Trailers, and Descriptions

  • The store maintains a minimalistic approach, with no trailers, flashing lights, or cinematic elements. 

Web Store Offers: Visibility and Appeal

  • The deals are presented with clarity, each accorded its own space without additional distractions. The visual scaling of icons based on deal size, from small coin stacks to a cart full of coins for larger purchases, adds an intuitive and appealing element to the purchasing experience.
  • Simplicity is at the core of the store’s design. Clarity is maintained for each bonus: each deal shows the additional coins players receive for making purchases in the web store: between 6% to 8% extra. 
  • Interestingly, while the store includes labels like ‘featured’ and ‘web exclusive’, it doesn’t emphasize featured deals, sales, or discounts to the extent often seen in other web stores.

Monetization Strategy

Overview of Purchase Options

  • The mobile store offers a range of products, including battle pass tickets (purchasable with real cash or PokéCoins), various in-game items, mystery boxes, and free daily bonuses. Towards the end, players find PokéCoin deals, which are also available in the web store. The offerings are aligned with player desires, ensuring relevance and appeal.

Subscription Models

  • No permanent battle passes are sold on the web store – although the store is supporting it and in the past some battle passes were offered. 
  • No specific mention of subscription models was made, suggesting a focus primarily on individual purchases.

Comparison with Industry Standards

  • The store maintains industry-standard pricing, with consistent gradual growth of coin value across different price points. 
  • The web store bonus however, is more or less the same across all price points
  • The maximum coin offer is capped at $100, mirroring common practices in the industry.

Promotions and Discounts

  • The web store distinguishes itself by offering bonus coins, a promotion not scaled in proportion with price point increases, but nevertheless maintaining consistent value growth.

Suggestions for improvement

  • Continuation of this clear, value-added strategy is recommended, possibly exploring tiered bonuses for higher purchases to further incentivize user spending.
  • Gamification mechanics such as daily bonuses and accumulation bars in the store would increase the number of players visiting the store daily and maximize repeat purchases.

Payment User Experience (UX)

6
  • The payment process in the store is streamlined and efficient. Users are first given the option to use a promo code, directly impacting the final price before proceeding to checkout.
  • The checkout process, managed by a professional third-party service, is straightforward and user-friendly. It offers major payment providers, with a focus on platform-specific systems like Apple Pay on iPhones and Google Pay on Android devices. This tailored approach ensures a seamless transaction experience, catering to the varied preferences of users.

Community and Social Integration

7

Social Media Presence

  • The web store itself does not directly link to social media accounts. However, exclusive deals are actively promoted through the game’s official social media channels, like Instagram. Additionally, these deals are often shared by players in fan groups on platforms like Facebook.

User Forums and Support

  • The publisher provides basic text support, but lacks interactive features such as forums, live chat, or a direct community support system within the web store context.
  • The absence of interactive support tools or dedicated community forums suggests a limited capacity for addressing user concerns in an engaging, community-oriented manner. This could be an area for potential improvement to enhance user satisfaction and community interaction.

Pokemon Go web store: Final takeaways

Financially, the store seems to be a significant revenue generator. Assuming that half of the store’s 2.6 million monthly visitors make a purchase at the minimum price point of $5, it translates to an additional revenue stream of approximately $6.5 million per month, bypassing the typical 30% commission charged by app stores. This indicates the lucrative potential of web stores, underscoring their importance in the overall monetization strategy of mobile games.

In terms of design, Pokemon Go’s web store can be characterized by its clean, minimalistic design which removes potential distractions, its accessible feel with all visitors able to see offers before signing in, and its non-aggressive approach to sales. 

We think they do a great job catering to the game’s core audience of engaged, experienced players who prefer simplicity and clarity over aggressive marketing tactics. This approach demonstrates a commitment to user satisfaction and loyalty, contributing to the game’s sustained success.

In terms of improvements, Niantic could significantly boost engagement, retention, and repeat purchases by integrating gamification elements into the store, such as accumulation bars and daily bonuses. 

Follow Appcharge on LinkedIn to stay tuned for our next Web Store Walkthrough.

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.

How to Choose a Web Store Platform for Your Mobile Game

The bandwagon is well in motion: nearly all top mobile game publishers developed a web store in 2023, and many more will follow suit in 2024.

Some publishers chose to build their web store in-house from scratch, but the vast majority of mobile publishers chose to use an external, white-label platform to build and manage their web store. 

However, with several white-label web store platforms to choose from, it can be challenging to identify the ideal option for your game. 

It’s a crucial decision – migrating to a different web store platform later on will likely be a major headache. That’s why we’ve written this article – to help you understand the key considerations when choosing a white-label web store platform. Let’s get started.

What is a mobile game web store?

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A web store is a direct-to-consumer store in which developers and publishers sell digital items and bundles to their players. Web stores are not a replacement for the in-game stores we’re all accustomed to; rather, they’re an additional game monetization channel.

Web stores exist outside of the Apple or Google ecosystem, which means developers bypass the traditional 30% fees in every transaction.

So what do developers pay, we hear you ask? That depends.

Larger publishers may choose to build their own web store in-house from scratch and act as their own Merchant of Record, which would see them earn most of the royalties from their sales (minus payment fees). This approach requires significant investment in both time and money, which you can read more about here.

Most publishers, even larger ones, however, will leverage white-label web store platforms and existing Merchant of Records. Such platforms often take care of all the tech and payment infrastructure, and in return take a share of the sales royalties – anything from 5 to 15 percent, depending on the company.

Can you build your own web store tech?

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Yes, you can build your web store technology internally. To do this, generally speaking, you’d need:

  1. A team of specialist engineers and product designers
  2. A lengthy runway – it can take a minimum of 4 months to globally launch a basic web store from scratch
  3. A payments team (or external vendor) to handle Merchant of Record functions, such as refunds, chargebacks, invoicing, and fraud 
  4. A commitment to investing in frequent development work to optimize and update your web store, so it’s as dynamic as your game

These are just the base components – there are a whole host of other requirements that come with building your own web store in-house – which gives you an idea of the scale of the task.

That’s why publishers are increasingly turning to white-label platforms for their web store needs. With that in mind, let’s look at your top considerations when it comes to choosing the right platform for your game’s web store.

How to choose the right web store platform for your game

From Appcharge to Xsolla, there are various companies offering plug and play web store platforms for mobile game developers. Choosing the right platform is an important decision.

Here are 3 key considerations:

1. Make sure they have reasonable, transparent fees 

In return for getting an out-of-the-box white label web store, you need to share some of your margins with the web store provider to ensure mutual incentive. If you choose the right vendor, this fee is well worth the money and time you save on assembling a team of engineers to build a store from scratch.

However, some white label web store providers take up to 15% per transaction, while others have many types of hidden fees that lead to lower margins than expected. 

While these fees are still significantly lower than Apple’s commission, it’s important to choose a white label web store that is transparent in its pricing terms to ensure you are building for future scale.

Make sure you get a detailed breakdown of the fees before making any decisions. 

2. Ensure they’re reliable and customer-oriented

You don’t fully own your web store when you’re using a third party solution. You also don’t control the operations behind it. 

Should the vendor get hacked, close down, or go through any other kind of mismanagement – you could be at risk of experiencing interruption to your web store and the revenue it generates. 

This can be avoided by working with a boutique web store provider run by people you trust. Do your research about their security practices, read case studies, and talk to the platform’s team to ensure you are as confident as possible about their reliability, security, and support.

3. Check they’re gaming-first

As a game publisher, you ideally want the team behind your web store platform to come from gaming backgrounds. Better yet if those individuals have experience working in LiveOps. That way, you know you’re working with people who truly “get” your needs as a developer, the needs of your players, and the ins and outs of the games industry. 

Taking this a step further, you want to be working with experts who know how to push you forward and suggest revenue-boosting strategies.

Without this, you risk being on different wavelengths with your point of contact and missing out on growth opportunities in your web store. 

To avoid this, make sure you choose a web store platform that has been built by games industry experts. The Appcharge team, for example, includes leaders with backgrounds at top mobile game developers like Moon Active, Rovio, Tilting Point and more.

Choosing a web store for your mobile game: Final takeaways

In 2024, the rise of web stores is not just a paradigm shift; it’s a strategic imperative for game developers seeking autonomy and financial resilience. 

The choice of the right web store platform becomes a linchpin in this journey, determining not only the trajectory of your game but also the extent of your independence in a rapidly evolving gaming ecosystem. 

With several web store platforms on the market offering similar products, looking for differentiating factors that will provide you a competitive edge is important.  

Transparency, financial legitimacy and reliability are key areas to dive into during your decision process, but perhaps the most important factor is if the web store platform is made by game industry veterans. 

The right web store platform is more than a service provider; it’s a collaborator with a deep understanding of the gaming realm. Opting for a platform crafted by industry experts ensures a synergy of goals, where your success as a developer aligns seamlessly with the strategies and insights provided by the people behind your web store platform.

From Code to Checkout: Tackling the Top 5 Challenges in Crafting Your Game’s Web Store

By now, it’s no secret that a web store is the golden ticket to catapulting your mobile game revenue into the stratosphere. But the path to building a successful web store is riddled with challenges, requiring a strategic combination of skilled professionals and a carefully allocated budget. 

Game developers often plunge into this venture unaware of the intricacies, only to find themselves tumbling down the rabbit hole of unforeseen costs and missed deadlines. Here’s our top list of challenges to take into consideration before you start building a web store from scratch, to ensure you’re well-prepared for the complexities that lie ahead.

1. Assembling your team

Sure, assembling a team seems like a breeze: after all, your game studio is teeming with superstar developers, product managers, designers, and analysts. But how web-savvy are they? Proficient in game app development, your team might lack the expertise required for the intricate task of building a web store.

Moreover, as a game developer, you’ll probably want to prioritize… well, game development goals, reserving your best talents for the game, and leaving a junior team grappling with a sizeable project. Balancing your team’s skill set is crucial to the success of your web store venture.

2. Doubling your effort (and then some)

Building a web store is not a one-off event; it’s an ongoing endeavor. Unfortunately, we often see gaming companies launch a basic web store only to let it gather dust due to the costs of maintenance. Ensuring the commitment of your entire team, from marketing to LiveOps, increases the workload for everyone involved in terms of development as well as maintenance, but is also essential.

3. Being your own Merchant of Record

Launching a direct-to-player platform and avoiding the usual 30% transaction fees is (oh so) enticing, but what does it mean to handle your own transactions? How expensive is it? In case you decided to build both a web store and a checkout system, you are now not only delving into the web development sphere, but also embarking on a journey into the complex world of payments.

Becoming your own Merchant of Record means grappling with local taxes, currencies, exchange rates, invoicing, billing and fraud prevention. This newfound responsibility introduces the risk of exceeding chargeback limits, potentially resulting in penalties or even the blocking of your game by payment providers. If managing these financial intricacies seems overwhelming, opting for a third-party payment solution is a prudent choice.

4. Getting players to your store 

Bringing players to your store is a challenge in itself. Due to legal constraints, advertising your store within your game is impossible. You’ll need a creative approach to user acquisition, including retargeting campaigns, direct messaging your whales, and leveraging online communities on platforms like Facebook, Instagram, or Discord, depending on where your audience is.

Training your community and account managers to navigate this uncharted territory is essential. Opting for an out-of-the-box store via a dedicated platform can be helpful, as the supplier can offer best practices and insights based on player behavior patterns across the industry. While you’re at it, be sure to also ask them for business strategy recommendations regarding which monetization tools are best to use for your particular game.

5. Keeping up with industry trends 

The gaming industry moves at breakneck speed. New monetization tools emerge daily, promising unprecedented revenue increases. Amidst the daily grind of game maintenance, player management, and team oversight, keeping pace with these innovations becomes a formidable task. Developing and introducing new web store monetization tools to your audience requires vigilance, dedication, and of course, a substantial part of your budget.

Embarking on the journey of building a web store is undoubtedly an ambitious undertaking. But with meticulous planning, the right team, a decent budget and a clear understanding of the challenges, you can transform this endeavor into a lucrative opportunity for your game. 

Explore plug-and-play web store solutions that minimize hassle while boosting revenue

A Perfect Storm: 5 Industry Trends Fueling the Rise of Web Stores

2023 saw numerous leading mobile game publishers build their own web stores, allowing them to sell directly to players – and bypass the usual 30% fees in the process.

But what’s driving this strategy? Why are web stores emerging as must-have monetization channels now?

Below, we unravel the threads that tie key games industry trends such as extended development timelines, rising user acquisition costs, and the changing face of hyper-casual, to the pivotal role web stores play. 

You’ll come away understanding how exactly web stores can fuel sustainable revenue growth for mobile game publishers in 2024 and beyond. Let’s jump in. 

1. Extended Development Timelines

Trend: Developing games now takes considerably more time. “Gone are the days of creating a new prototype weekly or even a few each month”,  John Wright, VP of Publishing at Kwalee, notes. “Teams are now investing more time in research, ideation, and game development, resulting in fewer opportunities”.

Enter, web stores: With the days of rapid prototyping and frequent game launches seemingly over, studios must focus on really squeezing the lemon from their existing successful titles. Web stores provide a way to both meaningfully increase bottom line profit and retention rates. 

With gamification mechanics and exclusive offers that give players more value than they’re able to get anywhere else, web stores serve as a powerful antidote to the financial impact caused by the reduced frequency of new game launches. 

2. The evolution of hyper-casual 

Trend: Hyper-casual was not just a game genre, it was a business model. One that revolved around aggressive UA, ads, and rapid game prototyping. Hyper-casual games are still around, but the boom has dissipated. Testament to this is the fact that revenue generated by hyper-casual games dropped 10% in 2022 compared to 2021, down to $12.3bn from $13.7bn.

With aggressive UA and a profitable game an increasingly elusive combo in the post IDFA landscape, many studios who focused on hyper-casual in recent years have been forced to deepen their game mechanics, develop more complex and innovative games, and shift away from the ad-centric model. 

Enter, web stores: With web stores enabling publishers to sell digital items directly to players, outside Apple’s walled ecosystem, it’s now far more viable to shift away from the ad-based model and operate an IAP-centric game. 

The reason is simple: publishers’ margins are higher for every transaction. 

Studios can either develop their own web store in-house and pocket all of the revenue (minus payment fees and the high cost of actually developing the store), or use a white-label solution that takes a marginal fee but allows them to quickly build a powerful, customizable web store that still massively lifts their profit. 

3. The demand for compelling meta

Trend: The shift away from basic hyper-casual game mechanics, and users’ high expectations for games to operate as live services, has led established games publishers to double down on compelling storylines and meta games. 

Enter, web stores: If compelling storylines, deep meta games, and robust live ops are the engines behind established, evergreen games, then web stores are the top up of fuel to help keep everything running. 

That’s because web stores have the potential to increase retention: publishers can delight their most engaged players with so much extra value, and use gamification mechanics like daily bonuses, progress bars and loyalty programs to create a fun experience. 

In doing so, publishers can create a virtuous cycle of growth of increased profit, higher retention rates, and more engagement in their meta features and liveops. 

4. Major Publishers are Focusing on High Revenue Potential Games

Trend: John Wright revealed how Kwalee is testing fewer games now, focusing more on those they believe “can become tier 1 launches generating $5-10 million or more in lifetime revenue”. Similarly, he shared how Kwalee is “prioritizing an understanding of monetization results over marketability”. 

Enter, web stores: Studios looking to work with top publishers must prioritize making sustainable, profitable games. Web stores provide one of the most powerful yet simple ways to achieve this. 

Customizable designs that feature your game art, a seamless checkout process that supports hundreds of payment methods, localized prices, and a whole host of gamification mechanics make web stores engaging for players and dynamite for mobile game revenue

And the best part is white label platforms like Appcharge handle all the heavy lifting for you, meaning web stores are not only accessible to the biggest publishers who can afford to build their own store in-house.

5. User Acquisition Costs Are Rising

Trend: The primary challenge many gaming studios are facing is running effective UA at scale while ensuring profitability. Kwalee, for instance, is investing 25 times more in user acquisition per title. This has to be compensated for somehow. 

Enter, web stores: As should be clear by now, web stores – when managed smartly – provide significant uplift to profit margins for games selling digital items to players. White label web stores charge anywhere between 5%-15% in fees, in addition to minor payment processing costs – a far cry from Apple’s 30%. With this added cash flow, studios are afforded a lifeline that they can reinvest into their business growth. 

Final takeaways

All of these trends create a perfect storm for web stores. Sometimes this industry has seen tech solutions being made for problems that don’t yet exist (*cough* web3 games *cough*). 

But web stores have emerged at a time where there is a real need for mobile games to find new revenue streams. Not only did Apple turn the industry on its head by deprecating the IDFA, but their 30% cut from every in-game transaction adds insult to injury. 

Thanks to Epic Games, studios can break out of this walled garden and usher in a new era of monetization. 

Click here to learn more about Appcharge’s white-label web store solution

5 Quick Ways to Boost Your Web Store Revenue

Making your web store a gold mine for revenue isn’t just wishful thinking—it’s totally doable. This article is your go-to guide, packed with smart moves and insider tips specifically crafted for mobile game publishers.

We’re talking about turning up the fun with gamification, placing those offers just right to catch eyes, tweaking prices to feel like a local no matter where your players are, smoothing out the checkout process until it’s slicker than your game’s graphics, and giving your web store that personal touch to make it feel like an extension of the game world.

These aren’t just strategies; they’re your playbook for creating a web store experience that players will love coming back to, boosting those sales numbers as they dive deeper into your game. Perfect for game publishers looking to notch up their game’s direct-to-player strategy, this guide is all about making your mobile game’s web store the place to be.

1. Harness the Power of Gamification Mechanics

Integrating gamification features into your web store can be a game-changer for revenue generation. Daily bonuses, progress bars, and loyalty programs not only boost player retention but also generate repeating, powerful marketing touchpoints. Your web store shouldn’t just be a place to spend; it’s a dynamic hub where your most engaged players can’t resist coming back for more, leveling up their experience and your revenue.

2. Use Segmentation and Place Your Offers Strategically 

Make sure you’re giving your players the most relevant experience and content when they enter your store. To do this, leverage segmentation tools, such as those available in Appcharge’s web store dashboard. For instance, you can provide especially irresistible deals to players who are yet to make their first purchase.

When it comes to offers, it’s not just about what you offer but where you put it. Choosing and positioning offers in sync with your game’s theme can significantly impact revenue. Temporary, event-related offers, like holiday promotions, should steal the limelight at the top of your store (a calendar of all major national holidays is your best friend here). Permanent deals? Keep them cool below, creating a hierarchy that guides players through the journey of tempting offerings.

Keep the UX clean and intuitive – Pokemon Go for example uses a minimalistic design to remove distractions and maximize repeat purchases.

3. Localize Prices for a Personal Touch

When it comes to prices, speaking the player’s language adds a personal touch to the shopping experience. Presenting prices in familiar currency terms eliminates the confusion that might act as a roadblock to spending. It’s not just about simplifying the transaction; it’s about empowering the player with a clear understanding of the value they’re about to unlock. When choosing a white-label web store solution, make sure it automatically localizes the currency for users. This will save you time and effort. 

4. Streamline Checkout for a Seamless Experience

A straightforward and efficient checkout process is non-negotiable for increasing revenue (nobody has time for a clunky checkout process). Players should be able to complete transactions with minimal clicks, ensuring a hassle-free experience.

Yet, the real magic lies in the familiarity factor – integrating payment solutions that players already know and trust. For instance, providing options like Apple Pay instills a sense of security, boosting the player’s confidence in making transactions. It’s the secret sauce to a positive user experience that translates to cold, hard revenue.

5. Customize Your Web Store Design

One of the key factors influencing player spending is the environment in which they make purchases. By customizing your web store to align with the theme of your game, you create a familiar and trustworthy space for players, a space they feel at home spending their hard-earned cash.

If you’re using a white-label web store solution, customizing your store’s design is straightforward. Simply upload your art and assets, head to your settings, select your template, logo, background image, font style and colors, and more. The ease of this process enables you to frequently tinker with your artwork and store design to see what maximizes purchases.

Web Stores for Mobile Games: Dynamite for your Revenue

A deep understanding of player psychology and strategic implementation of user-friendly features can create a compelling environment that not only aligns with player preferences but also maximizes revenue potential. With each click, each thematic alignment, and each gamified interaction, you’re not just offering a product – you’re orchestrating an experience that resonates with players.

Learn how Appcharge’s white label web store can easily boost your revenue, engage your players, and elevate your game.

Play it Safe: The Appcharge Approach to Risk Mitigation

As game developers, we pour our hearts and souls into creating captivating experiences, while the risk of fraud and fraudulent chargebacks is always lurking in the shadows. The need for a robust risk mitigation strategy has never been more crucial.

In this article, we’ll delve into why risk mitigation is paramount for mobile game developers and explore how the Appcharge platform empowers you to safeguard your transactions effectively.

Appcharge’s Fraud Score

At the heart of Appcharge’s risk mitigation strategy lies the Fraud Score. Every transaction passing through our platform is meticulously evaluated and assigned a fraud score. This score serves as an initial assessment of the transaction’s risk level.

But how is this score calculated? It’s a blend of cutting-edge algorithms and historical data analysis. We consider various factors, such as transaction history, user behavior, and payment method, to assign a score that reflects the likelihood of fraudulent activity.

Transactions with high fraud scores aren’t dismissed outright. Instead, they are flagged for further review. We understand that false positives can be costly, so our approach is not overly cautious. Instead, it’s calculated and precise.

In our commitment to excellence, Appcharge collaborates with third-party anti-fraud software of the highest standards. This partnership ensures that our fraud detection capabilities are at the forefront of industry security. Your peace of mind is our priority.

Blacklisting Serial Fraudsters

At Appcharge, we have zero tolerance for serial fraudsters. Our platform blacklists individuals with a history of fraudulent activities across all games, creating a robust shield against repeat offenders.

Machine Learning Customization

Our machine learning capabilities allow you to define custom rules based on your unique business goals. Alternatively, you can opt for our recommended optimal settings, harnessing the power of AI to protect your transactions.

Optimized Manual Review

Appcharge streamlines the manual review process. We provide a centralized view of all flagged transactions, accompanied by rich contextual data explaining why each transaction was flagged for review. This ensures that your team can efficiently evaluate and address any concerns.

Extra Authentication for High-Risk Transactions

We understand the delicate balance between security and user experience. Appcharge applies extra authentication measures to high-risk transactions, without compromising your conversion rates. This targeted approach ensures that only transactions with elevated risk receive additional scrutiny.

Multiple Payment Methods

An e-commerce checkout interface on a mobile device screen, with an option to purchase an 'Amethyst Crystal' for $12.99. Multiple payment methods including Apple Pay and credit cards are visible. The user's information is pre-filled, ready for purchase. The background is a vibrant orange with a Euro currency symbol on one side and a Dollar sign on the other, indicating multi-currency support. Snippets of code in the background suggest a secure and programmable payment gateway.

Offering multiple payment methods minimizes risk by adding layers of security and verification, making it harder for fraudsters to exploit vulnerabilities. Digital wallets require extra customer verification, such as biometrics or passcodes, while bank debits add an additional layer of security by verifying account ownership.

By providing these secure payment options, Appcharge ensures not only a smooth user experience but also a significant reduction in the risk of fraud, safeguarding both your revenue and player trust.

Chargeback Fraud: Navigating the Storm

Chargebacks can be costly, both financially and in terms of reputation. If your business loses a dispute, you could be liable for more than just the original transaction amount. Here’s how to handle chargeback disputes:

Customer-Centric Approach: When a dispute arises, it is recommended you proactively reach out to the customer, aiming to resolve the issue amicably.

Submitting Evidence: Timeliness is key. While reaching out to the customer for resolution, it’s crucial to also submit evidence within the required timeframe to prevent default wins for the other party.

Card Issuer’s Decision: It’s essential to note that Appcharge doesn’t make the final call on dispute outcomes. Card issuers have the authority to decide. We play our part by confirming that the evidence submitted meets requirements and promptly communicate the decision to you through our dashboard, webhooks, and API.

Appcharge’s multifaceted approach, encompassing advanced fraud detection mechanisms, efficient chargeback management, and the provision of secure payment choices, empowers developers with invaluable defenses against the evolving landscape of mobile gaming risks.

Understanding and implementing these strategies ensures that developers can forge ahead in their creative endeavors, fortified by the knowledge that Appcharge is a trusted partner in their journey.

Why Web Stores Offer a Better Deal For Your Mobile Game VIPs

We’ve already spoken about the $30 billion+ opportunity in the mobile games market. According to data.ai’s State of Mobile report, the sector generated $110 billion from player spending on in-app purchases in 2022. But due to the hefty 30% revenue share taken by Apple and Google, publishers saw ‘just’ $77 billion of that—the rest was scooped up by the platform holders.

Much of this revenue, of course, comes from the minority of players, your VIPs. But the App Store and Google Play make engaging with these players and providing them with deals more challenging than it should be—and they, of course, take that 30% fee.

That’s where an off-app payment system, or web store, can come in. Not only can this provide a much fairer deal for publishers—Appcharge, for example, takes just a 5% fee for powering transactions—but one of the biggest opportunities they offer is catering to those VIPs.

Community-Building

VIP users are the most engaged and highest spending players in your game. Ensuring a good experience, where they feel they are getting the appropriate rewards and perks for their investments, not only helps your title be successful, but can act as a reflection to how the wider player base feels about your game.

One of the best ways to do this (aside from in-game options such as clans, leaderboards, competitions, and various multiplayer modes) is to build your community outside of the app and onto platforms such as Discord, social media and even a dedicated website. These platforms let you engage with your players—and your VIPs—in ways that the App Store and Google Play don’t let you.

Through Discord, you can promote exclusive web store bundles, promote events with special giveaways available only out of the game, communicate directly with your players in a two-way conversation, and obtain direct feedback on specific features, updates, and what your players want to see most in the game. On Twitch, not only can the streaming platform help promote your title, it’s another way to share content and also promote exclusive web store offers. The same goes for social media—you’re meeting players where they are, while also having a platform to offer them the best deals, which you can’t do on closed mobile ecosystems.

It’s in these communities that you can build closer relationships with your highest spending players. Depending on your strategy, you could potentially communicate with players out of the game and through chatbots on Facebook, or via email marketing integration, to promote the latest and best deals. You could even offer limited-time discounts, bundles or even early access to new features, all through a web store that offers a better deal. By creating a direct-to-player monetization strategy, developers can increase their revenue and build a loyal fanbase outside of the restrictive app stores, rather than having to go through them.

Personalized Offers

A web store can work in tandem with your community strategy, particularly when it comes to VIPs. For starters, you have total control on the deals you can provide players and which price points to choose—and you are not at the mercy of any potential future policy changes by Apple or Google. This means you can provide better offers for players, who can get more bang for their buck when publishers don’t have to account for the 30% revenue share with platform holders.

For VIPs, you can offer a special loyalty program with better rates than in the app. What’s more, by powering your direct-to-consumer sales on Appcharge, you can segment your most important users and surface deals most appropriate to them. These deals can be personalized even to specific individuals, based on how they engage with the game and their current progress, and this entire process can be automated.

To attract players to actually engage with your web store, however, is no simple task. Many purchases in-game are made emotionally, an experience that is extremely challenging to replicate out of the app. That’s why building a community is important, and engaging with your top players to showcase the better deals on offer from your own store. The experience can also be improved by ‘gamifying’ the web store, making it look and feel similar to what players see in-game.

With Appcharge, developers can automate user segmentation, enabling them to create custom rules based on player behaviour, game progression, spending levels and habits, the country they live in, and preferred payment methods.

This personalization means developers can create and surface the most relevant offers to players, helping to increase conversion, and therefore revenue. And this all happens in an environment where publishers can take 95% of the revenue, not just 70%.

A Fairer Deal

Web stores have the potential to be much more than a way to obtain a better revenue share than mobile platform holders currently provide. They can play a key role in keeping VIPs happy and engaged with your game, ensuring they get the best and most relevant deals for their money, a process made easier by having a web store you control and generate higher returns from. By building communities out-of-app, publishers are able to go direct to players, build better relationships, and provide the most value.

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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