Debating In-App Purchases

by Christopher Paul on September 19, 2012

There must be something in the air because this morning, I read two articles debating (and not in favor of) in-app game purchaes. The first comes from Adii Pienaar where he becaume frustrated that the only way to improve their in-game character was through an in-app purchase. He had this to say in the end:

The best games will not need in-app purchases to "enhance" the gamer's experience and will rely on the tried & tested methods of engagement: make the game challenging & fun enough that I want to pour hours into perfecting my skills & execution.

The second comes from Zachary Knight writing for TechDirt where he covers the concept of a hard paywall – where you can only continue playing the game through an in-app purchase. In this case career progression isn't held back but level progression and/or game time is. Knight quotes several sources that I wouldn't want to take away from so be sure to read them all. Still, he does a good job highlighting challenges to monitoring games. Here's how he ends his post:

…variation in the marketplace would then allow for many different ideas of monetization both good and bad, both successful and unsuccessful. However, putting barriers between the consumer and your goods makes it more difficult for that consumer to buy… Because of external circumstances at the time of hitting the paywall, that potential customer was not able to process a transaction. That delay then led him to rethink the idea of purchase and, as far as we know, he has not made a purchase, even though he enjoyed the part of the game he played.

Business models and paywalls are not easy decisions and never simple. And while I'm generally against IAPs, I'll do it when they make sense to me. Angry Birds comes to mind where you could get past a difficult level by paying $1.99 or something. Even though the game cost $2.99 or $4.99 or whatever (I forget what it cost but it didn't matter. I got my enjoyment out of it), the IAP was worth it to me; I was able to enjoy the game more because I reduced my frustration and a natural barrier to continued game play. And finding that balance is key. Gamers must be engaged and playing to pay. Anything that disengages them (by preventing them from growing in Adii's case or the hard stop that TechDirt discussed) isn't going to net developers a good reputation or income.

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