The present model that most mobile apps, specifically games, currently follow is one that offers the application free of charge, whilst placing in-app purchases into the application that usually complete the overall app experience, and in the case of a mobile game, are sometimes even required to fully complete the game.
This is a method that has been adopted by most developers due to the harsh competition surrounding them, including other free alternatives, giving those downloading the apps the reason to believe all applications should be free.
What is next for In-App Purchases
From a business standpoint, putting your application up for free may feel like a risky move, and watching your application being downloaded by many without any income from this may leave you feeling a little disheartened, but it’s important to learn that apart from the occasional wildcards, the top-grossing apps are usually ones that are offered for free but support in-app purchases.
Currently this micro-transaction-based ‘freemium’ model is moving over to other platforms. A lot of MMOs have had to move to similar models because the traditional subscription-based model didn’t bring in enough income, and even AAA video game publishers are keen to try out new freemium-based models.
So we all understand that this free-to-play strategy is becoming one that is both acceptable and profitable, but as it’s something that is still fairly new, there are points where developers may be crossing lines and testing their boundaries. This is an important procedure though, because it helps to shape the freemium business model, and will be beneficial for both developers and consumers in the future.
But what are the lines and boundaries for in-app purchases, and where will it change in the future?
Time-based activities for casual games
This is something that has been adopted from Facebook games like Farmville. In games like these players usually have a certain amount of energy that is used up when performing tasks and other activities in-game. This restricts users from playing the game right the way through, but in its place offers purchasable energy to help the player play for longer. For casual games, this is something that’s going to stick. It offers those that play games for small periods of time a fairly issue-free experience, but as players progress through the game and build more valuable assets for their character, city, or whatever the game may involve, they may feel the need to purchase more energy to continue playing. This in-app purchase model is a perfect example of gamification and games like these stick around the top-grossing lists for a long time.
One way to entice customers into spending cash on in-app purchases is to offer items or parts of the app through a shop or marketplace in-game. Some items are available for an in-game currency, but the most valuable marketplace items are only available from purchasable currencies. Once again, users may feel the need to purchase these items to improve their performance in a game or to be able to use the app freely and without restrictions.
Restrictive gameplay and purchasable content
A good freemium model that is friendly to both players and businesses is something that offers the core experience of an app for free, whilst allowing players to purchase more game content with in-app purchases. As an example, you may have a class-based game like League of Legends which at a starting point offers five different classes to play as. Players can then purchase extra classes as well as other features like more maps or in-game abilities through in-app purchases. The game is completely playable without spending a penny, however by spending cash on the game, players get more features that add to the game, giving players more reason to carry on playing. As more games turn towards the freemium model, this is a strategy that will gain popularity over other methods because to the player it will feel a lot less restrictive than other models.
In-app purchases are something that will make app users moan and grunt, but developers will start to find ways to make purchases more meaningful to their customers whilst keeping them from feeling like the application isn’t just a quick cash grab by offering a decent experience before a dime is spent.