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Building an In-Game Store for the First Time? Here are the 4 Keys to Success

So you have a great concept for a mobile game and you have heard that free games with in app purchase is the way to go but you are not sure where to start. Guess what? You are not alone and many are struggling with this challenge. Here are 4 golden tips.

Yaniv Nizan

May 3, 2013

5 Min Read

So you have a great concept for a mobile game and you have heard that free 2 play games with in app purchase is the way to go but you are not sure where to start. Guess what? You are not alone. Designing a good in-game store is very different than designing the core of the game and many game developers are unsure about how to do it right.

Let me take you through some of the keys to designing a store that users will enter frequently and hangout in for long periods:

  • Put the store where user can find it and make it a natural part of the game loop

  • Create items that players use in your game every day

  • Make the store experience an interesting one

  • Limit continuous game play

If you implement these elements in your game you are significantly increasing your chances to succeed. Adding a few of these is good but if you want 3 stars try to get them all. Here is more specific advice about each one of these:

Put the Store Entrance Where Users Are

Getting users to naturally enter the store as part of the game flow is very important. Let's check a few methods for achieving this. If your game has levels, it should be easy enough for you to add a button to the store from the screen that notifies the user about a successful level completion. What if your game is a 'survival mode' type game or 'endless runner'? No problem. These games have limited sessions that usually end with a summary screen. This will be the right place to put your store button. Designing other types of games? If you implement the 4th tip you would actually break the game to sessions and would be able to use the session end screen. Alternatively, you can add the store button to screens that notify the user about achievements.

You can also use virtual goods that requires users to activate or equip them and use the store as the interface for picking the active character/vehicle/weapon. This will help you get users to the store more frequently.

Add Items that Players Need Regularly

Ok, so the store is now accessible from every screen in the game but why would user want to enter it? Let's think about the real world. The store that we enter the most is the one that sells the product we use and consume every day. Let's create some goods like that and make them easy to buy with game coins. How easy? The user should be able to collect enough coins in 1-3 levels or a few minutes of game play. The good itself should be regularly consumed and should make it easier for the user to collect more coins. If you do this correctly you end up with a consumption loop that brings the users to the store almost every time the user plays the game.

Here is how to make a good regular use good:

  • Make it complement the game store (banans for a monkey, fuel for a car, ...)

  • Price it so that user can earn enough to buy it within a few minutes of game play

  • Create an item that is fun to use and makes the game more engaging with it

  • Give the item powers that will make earning coins easier

Design an Engaging Store

You should also give the user reasons to spend time in your In-App Purchase store. Think of ways to make the store engaging and interesting for a long time - extend the variety, add some mystery and try to keep it fresh. If you want to look at a good example of store variety - look at CSR racing. That store has over 2 million items you can buy. You can also add mystery by using silhouettes to hide an item until the right time has come. This helps in keeping the user engaged and curious about what the store has to offer. The last bit is to keep your store fresh by adding items, unlocking items and even featuring seasonal items and limited editions.

Add Limits and Breaks to The Gameplay

If you want to really play it like the pros, you need to limit the user ability to play endlessly. This is a bit tricky so you will need to approach this carefully and be careful not to annoy your users. The best way to do it is by experimenting with different levels of limitations and measuring the impact on users until you reach the sweet spot. If you do choose to explore this direction, you should design a resource that is consumed naturaly in gameplay and automatically adds up as time goes by. Candy Crush Saga, has 'lifes' and in other games you can see fuel or energy. When the user runs out, she can choose to do one of three things: buy more, stop playing and come back later or wait inside the game. If you followed the rest of the advice, the option of staying inside the game and visiting the store should be a likely choice for a user who wants to kill some time.

I already wrote about the risks in the last tip but if you look at the top games, most of them have some version of it. You just have to make sure you are balancing it correctly. I will discuss how to do it in one of my next posts.

Will be happy to discuss more about this or any other game economy design topic. You can find me at Google Plus Yaniv Nizan, the SOOMLA blog or on Twitter

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