Using virtual money is a proven way to increase your app’s revenue, customer loyalty and popularity. Here’s why...
Virtual currencies have seen a renaissance in game apps over the last few years. These days it’s rare to find a game that doesn’t require you to use gems, gold or power-ups as incentives for play.
It seems as though everyone, developers and users alike, are hopping on board the virtual currency train.
But how can earning fake money be so appealing to both users and developers? Appmakr provides an excellent opportunity to design an incredible app, but sometimes monetizing an amazing idea can seem daunting. The reality is that virtual money is a brilliant marketing system for mobile games if designed in the right way. By using virtual currencies carefully, you can rake in revenue from your app.
Currency in Video Games
The idea of virtual currency is old hat to game design. Traditional PC and console games often rely on in-game money like gold or credits to help track player progress. As they get further into the game, players earn progressively greater rewards.
This money has no real life value—it ceases to be relevant the moment the player turns off the game. It does, however, have value within the game itself. Most games offer the player the opportunity to spend real moneyin-game, for upgrades and power-ups.
The strategy is common in game design because it so successfully creates user loyalty and satisfaction. Players love earning virtual rewards, often for the rush that comes with it, which has been described as similar to the feeling some people get when shopping or playing slots at the casino.
For example, Call of Duty, a massively popular video game offers an approach to virtual money that seems to resonate with its millions of players from all over the world. Players earn money for killing other players with certain guns or for reaching a specified kill count. That money goes back to buying new guns and upgrades. This helps keep the player invested in earning more by:
- Giving them a tangible goal to work toward.
- Giving them a quantifiable sense of progression.
- Making them feel talented at the game by earning money.
- Keeping them interested in the game by unlocking new experiences.
The feeling of progressing through the game and earning virtual currencies is so powerful that many Call of Duty players willingly opt to enter “prestige mode”, willingly giving up all of their guns and upgrades to go through the leveling up process all over again. That’s how powerful virtual currencies can be.
Using Virtual Currency in Your App
Some of the most successful casual games use virtual currencies to ration rewards and increase player participation. This is important for app design because you can use the same principles for mobile games.
Virtual currencies mesh especially well with free-to-play apps. They can help keep players engaged in your F2P game and encourage in-app purchasing.
FarmVille was one of the first games to popularize the use of virtual currencies in casual gaming. It used two currencies, farm cash and gasoline. The farm bucks were common and easily earned. Gas, conversely, requires the player to get help from a friend or pay real money. Of course, the game wouldn’t let you pass certain chokepoints without gas.
The genius of FarmVille’s two-currency system is its ability to suck in players. They play the game for free. They earn farm cash, triggering the same happy “rewarded” feeling you see in Call of Duty players. However, the game intentionally makes gasoline difficult to earn. When FarmVille stops the player and tells them to get more gas to continue, many players are willing to pay real money to keep going. They’re hooked.
The two-currency system isn’t a secret—many apps are using this system today because it works.For example, if a player buys a $5 pack of 300 gems and spends 250 gems on an in-game upgrade, they can’t get the remaining 50 gems back. This encourages them to spend more within the app.
To summarize, virtual currencies are powerful tools. They can be used to tickle the reward centers of a player’s brain and dole out new experiences to keep them interested. They can also help developers earn money.
A word of caution, though. Casual gamers are used to gems, gas, farm bucks, and all other types of virtual currencies by now. If you lock too much of your game behind a paywall, you risk irritating your audience. Plants vs. Zombies 2, a free-to-play sequel to one of the best mobile games ever, bombed because it mishandled its microtransactions. Make sure your game is free-to-play, not pay-to-win.
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