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).
Price IAPs Differently
The global mobile games market may have generated $110 million in 2022, but a sizable chunk of that is sucked up by the business expenses of running a successful title. The chief among them is the 30% revenue share Apple and Google take from each in-app purchase (with the exception of titles that generate under $1 million in a year or repeating subscriptions).
As a consequence, in-game economies have to be built around this cut to ensure a title is profitable, which can lead to inflated prices compared to what they might be otherwise. On a web store, purchases such as currency, boosters, cosmetics, season passes—anything you have to sell—can 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.
Personalisation and Segmentation
Game stores shouldn’t just offer generic in-app purchases for sale (though web stores do offer plenty of opportunities for better deals, as our previous tip shows).
One of the best methods of making a shop successful—on mobile or in the browser—is to surface personalised deals to your players, segmenting them based on their playing habits, their progress and personal profile. Offering a starter pack after letting a new player progress through the early stages of the game, once you know they are engaged, is much more effective than notifying them of the deal as soon as they open the app for the first time. Similarly, other special deals can be presented to players that are adapted to their skill level, or perhaps surfaced when they are stuck on a particular level.
These same practices can be brought to web stores. By segmenting users based on their customerID and linking this across from the mobile app to the browser, developers can surface special deals for anything from a season pass to in-game currency like gems can be tailored to individuals. Conversions can be challenging when creating the barrier of a web store to payments, but when successfully implemented, this strategy could improve the lifetime value (LTV) for the most engaged players who feel they are getting a better deal.
Promotions can even be set for specific dates and times, such as deals of the month or promotions that encourage not only player spending, but other free bonuses on top, again further encouraging engagement and retention in the long-term.
Ultimately, a web store can provide a key function in live ops, powered by personalisation and segmentation. And with a service like Appcharge, much of this work can be set up for automation, meaning fewer resources need to be spent on managing the payment system and the offers it surfaces.
One crucial step to creating a successful web store is to ‘gamify’ the design and experience. Significant time, investment and testing goes into creating in-game shops and the entire in-game economy in mobile titles. That exact same mindset should be brought to the web experience. It’s easy to just create a simple, run-of-the-mill storefront in the browser with a few good deals and leave it at that.
But 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 and welcoming, not just a bland experience for the simple purpose of making a transaction. Free-to-play mobile developers already excel at this, so why should bringing this to the web be any different?
There is clearly a challenge in pulling the player out of a mobile game and having them engage with the web store, but by gamifying this experience, developers can help this become more seamless and satisfying. The rewards for players are better deals, and for developers, better returns. Working in tandem with better online pricing and personalised deals, you can build a satisfying experience for your players.
Many of the world’s top publishers excel at building communities around their top games. Creating a social experience in-game, whether that’s through PvP, PvE, tournaments or full fledged clans, can be a huge boon for engagement and long-term retention. Building on this outside of the app and onto other platforms, such as Discord, social media and/or dedicated websites, is another great way to keep players engaged and bring them together.
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 the developer 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.
It’s important to note that, at present, App Store game developers cannot directly link to a store outside of the platform (‘Reader Apps’, such as magazines, newspapers, books, audio, music, or video apps, can link to external websites for account creation and management). So building your community outside of that ecosystem early on is critical.
You Don’t Have to Build it Yourself
Following the best practices we’ve set out in this article can help you make your web store a success, and while it takes careful planning and a solid execution, you don’t have to do it all yourself.
A partner such as Appcharge provides an off-the-shelf solution to help you create a gamified, mobile-first web store. Taking just a 5% cut of each purchase, we take away the admin work of payment and billing, removing admin headaches, so you can focus on building your game and its community.
Appcharge’s Merchant of Record services offload operational burdens, managing anything from collecting sales tax, ensuring Payment Card Industry (PCI) compliance and dealing with refunds and chargebacks, effectively managing all payments and associated liabilities. The extra benefit of this model is that, given games are a global business, Appcharge simplifies the process of selling across borders so you don’t have to. You can learn more about these services in our guide to merchant of record services for mobile games publishers here.
Appcharge also offers a variety of templates developers can utilise to build out their web stores, supporting you with the best practices of building a storefront for the browser.
Ultimately, by working with a partner, developers can save money and resources on building these services from scratch and focus on development and publishing successful games. With Appcharge’s solution, there’s no SDK involved, and requires a minimal amount of integration – it just requires elements such as the customerID and balance report, while segmentation data can be utilised to personalise the web store experience.
Capitalise 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, personalising offers, gamifying the experience, and building a community—developers are well placed to take advantage of this shift in the mobile sector to new payment options.
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.
Interested in finding out how Appcharge can help you build your own web store? Contact us today. Our team can provide you with a demo and further discuss the benefits of adopting privacy-compliant practices and leveraging new technologies. Don’t miss out on the opportunity to stay ahead of the curve and position yourself for success in 2023 and beyond.