Monetization Best Practices: What Are People Paying For in a Social Game?


Savvy game developers are always on the lookout to increase the revenue opportunities within their social game(s). Learn more about the ways in which successful developers are incorporating certain mechanics that really ‘pay off’.

Many developers and studios have opted for a free-to-play business model. What this has produced is a shift in the design mindset to incorporate additional features into a title whereby the opportunity to create an in-app or after install purchase is heightened. Appealing to players’ wants and desires, a few changes along the design lines can have a dramatic effect on not only the conversion rate from a free user to a paid user - but to the average revenue per paying user (ARPPU).

Below are several areas that people are likely to pay for from within a game.

Feature Unlocking – Is the cornerstone of the free-to-play to monetization business model. It is accomplished by opening up additional features, levels, options and overall game interaction through conversion to a paid version. After interacting with a free version of a game, many players quickly see the value of what the greater experience could be. By combining a strong free experience with the promise of an even better interactive paid experience developers have learned that players will pay for the additional experience.

Social Identity and Vanity – Because we are talking about ‘social’ games, the way that people present or express themselves in their environment can be a big opportunity for monetization. By selling ‘limited edition’, ‘one of a kind’ or even ‘hard to achieve’ items developers can leverage the ‘wants’ of a player and create not only a better experience for the user but an opportunity for the game operator to attract additional purchases from other players who interact with the purchasing user. Some players ‘simply have to have’ certain items. By not being creative here, game developers are leaving money on the table.

Short-term Power – Game developers with highly competitive games quickly realized that players were willing to pay for things like temporary  ‘power’, ‘health’ and ‘ammo’ in order to achieve a short term win or goal. This is especially true in games where gaining a competitive advantage over opponents is an important part of gameplay. Along the same lines, opening up a ‘specialty shop’ allows the game developer to leverage the desire of a short term game feature (i.e. a special weapon) available only for sale.

Reduce the Time Investment - Players of social games are more likely to have shorter periods of play and unlocking features can not only keep players engaged, but create an opportunity to make money.  Along the same lines, players are more likely to pay to advance a level or unlock more of a story to avoid the painful waiting time or overall time investment. These types of features can be incorporated into almost any social game by adapting around the storyline or play through of scenarios and levels.

In summation - As the social games market continues to grow, competition for players amongst game types is increasing. Attracting new players to a game is only one part of the challenge. Currently the average social game player engages a game for approximately three months. This number has some evidence to suggest that it could be in decline. Therefore quickly and effectively monetizing players is increasingly more important for the livelihood of the game developer, and game developers who add elements to increase the likelihood of in-app purchases are the ones turning profits.