Merging In-App Currencies

Continuing on the subject of in-app currencies and economies, having covered some philosophical elements, let’s look at some practical applications.  Practical application, of course, depends upon your position in the market, your apps, their popularity and longevity, as well as your openness to explore new ideas.  Newer developers will need to apply to different strategies than established ones.

Numerous companies have developed and more are developing gaming sites offering players access to a wide collection of games, some of which make use of the same “in-app currency” — call it “in-network currency”.    The more games you can offer, the greater your appeal, the easier it becomes for you to work on developing economy of scale.   The logical extension for developers is to examine where you might fit in with these kinds of game networks:

  1. whether to partner with established gaming sites,
  2. develop your own gaming community, or
  3. coordinate with other independent developers in sharing SDK’s to allow end-users to transfer their currency from one app to another.

The arrangements for this third option are more complex, suffice that it allows for cross-promotions of multiple apps.  In some ways, all three correlate to developing strategic partnerships and joint ventures.  In the third case, working with other developers, end-user purchase of in-app currency would basically be banked, with purchases of in-game products accruing to each developer.

The tendency now is to segregate all currency purchases on a per app basis.   As it stands, each app fends for itself, but in virtually all things, there is safety in numbers.   With software titles in the past, eventually all of the releases in a series would end up being bundled together.   But collections of similar types of games, even by different developers, also have a proven sales model.

Where file size is critical to the success of download/install rates, bundling multiple apps likely won’t work well for mobile users.   Promoting similar types of games to end-users who enjoy them enjoys a pretty good conversion rate, “If you liked this game, you might also like these (x, y and z).  Your paid currency can be used for all purchases in these games.”

The benefit for the end-user is significant in that it reduces risk in buying something they do not end up using but cannot retrieve while also providing them more options.   Use it or lose it, when there’s nothing the end-user deems worthy of purchasing within a single game will generally lead to players “losing it” — i.e. “game over” not for them, but for you.   When players know they have “money in the bank” for a game or series of games, odds are pretty good that they will return to it.

In my own case having played multiple MMO’s, while my interest shifts frequently, I periodically return to the best games just to see if there is something new.  The odds of that increase substantially relative to the degree that I am invested in the game – and it has led to making additional purchases – new games, expansion packs, new in-game items and/or account features.

One other point for the developer is that just because a player has not played for a while, does not mean they won’t return.  Real Life events intervene — it could be work, vacation, sickness, or simply going on to explore other games.

This brings us back to the need to communicate with your end-users, within your app and via email.  Regularly letting your customers know about new games, new features and options is a standard across all MMO’s, all businesses, and something you need to apply to.   Developers who collaborate and partner on projects like this not only increase the size of their email list, they legitimately increase the frequency of email releases with actual newsworthy updates.  If one developer has something new, but two others do not – the new item is the centerpiece of the mailing while the other two get a free promo.   This can be put to a formal schedule so that each partner is contributing to the development of your project/network.

Ultimately, it is a question for most solo and small developer teams to go it alone or work together.  Each has its challenges, but those successfully able to work together typically have a higher rate of success than those who do not or cannot.

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Project Manager at the Opera Mobile Store providing Sales-Marketing support. Content development and research.

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