Mobile game monetization still relies heavily on app stores, but every year the price of snagging and keeping players gets higher. It’s time for publishers and developers to think about the benefits of a direct-to-gamer web shop strategy.
During a recent VB Spotlight, “Why mobile game developers need to market directly to players,” Berkley Egenes, CMO at Xsolla and Enric Pedró, VP of growth at games publisher Tilting Point, tackled that question, plus how to mix web and platform sales, find a platform partner, build strategies for revenue growth and retention and more.
So why do you need a web shop?
A web shop, Egenes explained, “it’s your website, it’s your brand and it’s your user experience. You want to create that community and your web shop through your website is an extension of that.”
Not only does a web shop help you control the user experience, but it also lets you target users directly and opens up a broad array of promotional mechanics that you can’t implement elsewhere. You can incentivize players to be a first user, to be a first purchaser, or to return to your game and experience again and again.
With directly accessible player data, you can monitor their player profile, from their activities to their purchases, and serve up the kind of compelling offers that players love — discounts, bonuses, bundle packs and more.
Keeping players happy
And since those are the kinds of deals that get your whales excited, you’re not only monetizing your biggest players more effectively, but you’re also making them happier.
“The biggest thing we’re able to do is provide that additional value to those players, and they’ll keep coming back. They’ll keep returning,” said Egenes. “They’ll keep making additional purchases, having a better experience and enjoying your game more and more. At the end of the day, it’s an opportunity to promote your game, drive that experience, and then bring them back to the mobile device so that they’re playing on the mobile device and enjoying the game whenever and wherever they want.”
A web shop also means you can go global. Unlike the app store, players can pay in the currency they prefer, in the way they prefer. For instance, Xsolla’s Pay Station product enables 700 different payment methods around the world, through digital wallets and platforms like Pix in Brazil, AliPay and WeChat Pay in China, Paytm in India, and so on, all in a smooth and consistent branded experience.
“As a developer, you don’t have to worry as much about the service that you’re going to have available,” Pedró said. “Xsolla is taking care of having the financial details or the payment system in place so you can be reassured that it’s going to work as seamless as it does on the App Store or Google Play.”
How does it improve discovery and retention?
With a web shop you can not only set up re-targeting campaigns but go out into the broader world with your marketing. You can dip into your game’s Discord or Reddit group to directly promote new offers or new events, ensuring you’re reaching out to the broadest possible audience. You can work with influencers to reach fans, players and gamers alike, with performance driving revenue-sharing opportunities.
“Ultimately, you’re trying to find a way to bring people into that web experience and to transition them over into the mobile device and the play,” Egenes said. “All of the terms of service create offers that players want and value given you know their purchase history.”
Pedró added that leveraging third-party or alternative payment strategies offers two big engagement and retention benefits. First, you save on the cut that Apple and Google take, and therefore can offer a better deal to your players. Secondly, with the right strategies, you can convert users who had been hesitant to get into your game because of the cost.
“The first-time purchase is always the hardest to make,” he said. “Once you get a player to make a first purchase, then they’re more likely to keep spending. Therefore, with tools like Xsolla web shop, it is likely that if you play your cards right, it will allow you as a developer to convert them — I’m not going to say faster, but you are providing a player with more means to be able to do so.”
Tilting Point implemented conversion strategies with two of their games, WarHammer, Chaos and Conquest, and Star Trek Timelines, and has seen a tremendous amount of success.
“In both instances, I can tell you that while it fluctuates month-by-month, week-to-week, but all in all, we’re seeing about a 25% increase in revenue,” Pedró said.
How do you make it successful?
A web shop is not a golden ticket to the candy factory, however.
“There is the work of implementing the tool and getting the web shop up and running, etc.,” Pedró said. “There is also a lot of work making sure that you are covering all of the bases because players are not going to flock to your web shop and convert because all of a sudden, you’re telling them, hey, this new feature is available.”
That requires outreach and communication to players, in a way that showcases how the shop enhances the user experience or the game play.
He advised approaching a shop in the way you’d implement any other game or core feature: dipping a toe in, testing with a smaller group of users to see how the player base reacts, iterating over and over until you find your angle for success – and from there on, it grows easier to find wins as you expand.
It also means ensuring you go into your strategy with a unique proposition and value-add, Egenes said.
“If you just do the same offers on the web shop, you’re not going to generate the growth and the spike that you’re looking for,” he said. “You have to provide that incentive. You have to provide that uniqueness, value and FOMO, and you will see purchases over $100, over $1,000, tens of thousands of dollars in some cases, based on the bundle pack that you’re able to provide and the unique opportunity.”
To learn more about what a web shop offers developers, a look at what a partner brings to the table and implementation advice, don’t miss this VB Spotlight!