in-game shopping represented by hand tossing large dice

In-Game Shopping

In June 2007 Apple released the first iPhone. Although revolutionary as a phone and personal entertainment device, few people regarded it as a threat to the mainstream video game industry. Fast forward to 2012, Apple released the New iPad featuring the most advanced display ever seen on a tablet. This remarkable device has a screen resolution of 2048×1536 and 3.1 million pixels, rendering nearly every other tablet computer obsolete the moment it launched.

The Evolution of In-Game Shopping

With the addition of the App Store in 2008, consumers were given access to thousands of games available for instant download to the mobile device.  The app marketplace offered both free and paid games, with prices ranging from $0.99 cents to well over $9.99. Due to the popularity of the iOS device, players experienced a revolution in casual and social gaming.

Tablets quickly became a major factor in the game industry drawing a greater number of players who have tired of the traditional gaming console. This progression has given rise to a new business model, “Free to play” games with “in-game shopping” for cash purchases. This allows players to download and play games for free while maintaining the option to purchase gameplay improvements.

This business model helps developers draw in a larger audience by allowing them to “sample” the game without making a purchase. Larger download numbers increase the likelihood that some customers will make cash purchases. This also encourages developers to create high-quality products with addictive content. Furthermore, a developer can include in-game advertisements to generate additional revenue.

Too Much of a Good Thing

There are many benefits to using this model, but there can also be just as many problems. The gaming industry has a tendency to copy designs that prove successful in the market place. As a result, the App Store is inundated with clones of popular games. This makes it difficult for a new product to stand out above the crowd, which then affects the number of downloads.

Another problem is that some games focus on directing players to the store at the expense of maintaining fun factor.  Gamers are intelligent and expect a rewarding experience, so if a game places too many limits on what they can do without spending money, it becomes boring and the gamer will move on. People don’t want to spend hours grinding for currency in a game just to reach the equivalent of a $.0.99 cent purchase.

Gamers are eager and willing to spend money, but that does not mean they will blindly purchase anything. The quality of the purchases must enhance the game, without becoming an endless $0.99 cent black hole. Producing quality gameplay and content yields better sales by rewarding the gamer without forcing them to make purchases.


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