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Written by Matthew Emery on October 19, 2020, LinkedIn
In our work on 80+ games with 35+ game teams, there are some challenges that we encounter again and again. Over time, our experiences naturally evolve into generalizable best-practices.
In my articles, I strive to document these best-practices and make them available to everyone!, not just the few core clients that we serve.
In THIS article series I will focus on IAP Merchandising, an area where best-practices are particularly tangible, well-established, and almost certain to get you the best results!
And yet, these best-practices don’t seem to be documented anywhere… let’s fix that.
If the term ‘IAP Merchandising’ is unfamiliar to you, I’d recommend you first skim: ‘What is IAP Merchandising?’
If you follow the recommendations that follow, your team can save time and effort while avoiding the most common mistakes. Perhaps, like us at Turbine Games Consulting, you’ll even come to regard IAP Merchandising, and IAP Monetization more broadly, as one of the ‘easier’ parts of F2P game development.
Now, I certainly don’t mean to suggest that effective merchandising requires NO effort. Art assets still need to be created, stores wireframed, products designed, discounts tested and so on. But if we follow a playbook, effort and results are fairly predictable, with few surprises along the way!
Opening our IAP Merchandising discussion with Special Offers helps us focus first on the fundamentals: how to most effectively present a single product to your players. Later in this article series, we’ll zoom out and tackle broader, structural topics like store layout, segmentation and discounts.
Let’s get started!
If we expect our players to exchange real money for virtual (read: NOT REAL) products, we’d better do everything we can to make them look and feel valuable!
In your battle to captivate players via IAP merchandising, special offers are the most powerful tool in your arsenal. While your vanilla, in-store base products must also convey value, special offers have a higher calling: to be irresistable. The most effective offers evoke palpable feelings of excitement, opportunity, urgency and loss-aversion.
Many games miss the mark here.
When they do, a common cause is the developers’ failure to internalize and match the standard of quality set by their top-grossing competitors. The most egregious merchandising I’ve seen came from teams who didn’t habitually analyze top-grossing games.
This is an unnecessarily risky choice, because players’ perception of value is the primary driver of their monetization decisions, and this perception is regulated by the games they play most often.So, your IAP products need to look as appealing as your top competitors’.
The two most common places (“placements”) where special offers are sold, are:
In-Store Product List Offers
The In-Store Product List presents special offers next to basic products, facilitating the side-by-side comparisons that drive urgency.
Modal Popup Offers
The Modal Popup (or ‘screen takeover’) is the second place where special offers are merchandised.
A modal popup puts the interface into a ‘mode’ where the main window, while still visible in the background, has its functionality and buttons temporarily disabled. The popup becomes the front window and has the focus.
In F2P Games, modal popups generally occupy two-thirds of the screen. This provides enough room to make a captivating pitch for your IAP product while still leaving some background visible for context.
“Your IAP products need to look as appealing as your top competitors”.
This gets us in the ballpark but, as a measurable standard, it still falls short for two reasons:
So, we’ll enumerate 7 key criteria for ‘Captivating’ Special Offers.
Now that we’ve provided the checklist, let’s apply it to some actual offers!
First, an example of what NOT to do.
Don’t do this!
Above: The top offer (“Vanquisher Pack”) meets all five mandatory criteria in our list. Art is crisp, text is minimal, margins adequate, and layout cleanly emphasizes the title, aspirational hero image, and purchase button. Additional info is available via the small question-mark button.
The other two offers (“Ascension” and “Brawler”) fall a bit short due to their less-aspirational hero images, but this is likely part of an intentional effort to highlight the first offer.
Don’t do this!
The above offers, from Bricks Breaker Quest, are another illustration of how offers without hero images can fall flat. Even if I want the items being offered (in either pack), the offer presentations aren’t making any effort to add or communicate value, interest or excitement.
To me, the offers say: “Hey you could buy this stuff, if you really want to, I guess.”
Additionally, (if I’m being picky) the containers for the ‘Bonus’ items in each offer are too small, leaving insufficient margin around their contents, and the decision to hide the purchase prices makes it difficult to compare the offers.
Special Offers need to look valuable enough to generate excitement. This isn’t the time or place to skimp on art, layout or overall visual polish. Aim for captivating and don’t settle for less.
As we’ve shown above, top-grossing games have established a clear structure for building captivating offers. Let’s benefit from their R&D efforts!
By sticking to the checklist, you can maximize the effectiveness of your special offers while minimizing effort and uncertainty.
In the next article in this series, The IAP Merchandising Playbook, Part 2: Visual Hierarchy, we’ll build on these fundamentals with a deep dive into Visual Hierarchy for Special Offers, then apply these principles to an analysis of modal pop-up offers from Casual, Midcore and Core F2P titles.
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