3 ways of correctly implementing in-app purchases

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If there´s one thing that´s sure to rile up anger from gamers is the implementation of in-app purchases. From the early days of DLC, to overly-invasive loot boxes, to game-breaking paid boosts in multiplayer games, there´s been plenty of conversation regarding how to properly implement in-app purchases in games. Today, we´ll talk about 3 ways in which developers can, and sometimes have, implemented real-money transactions within video games.

IT´S ALL ABOUT LOOKING GOOD

The success of games like Fortnite (despite my feelings about EPIC as a company) and their in-app purchases relies on a very basic, but very strong core tenent: purchases are only cosmetic, and do not affect or boost player stats. This makes Fortnite a fairer, more skill-based endeavor, rather than a pay-to-win experience, like the early days of EA´s STAR WARS BATTLEFRONT reboot (and its sequel).

To this day, the debate over at EA rages on as to wether loot boxes are a form of gambling, with some countries´ legal systems already ruling them as such. If that´s the case, then players would do well to perhaps simply look at newly listed online casinos and gamble on something that will, at least, provide the possibility of a return on investment. But pay-to-win mechanics, where the multiplayer experience is hampered by players spending crazy amounts of money on powerups need to be a thing of the past if we aim to make in-app purchases a more acceptable industry standard.

NO MULTIPLAYER? NO PROBLEM

One thing that I want to make sure I emphasize is that I´m not against stat-boosting in-app purchases across the board. I´m only against them in multiplayer experiences, where the skill of the player should be the determining factor for winning or losing, and not the amount of money they´ve spent on boosting their character.

However, single player games are another beast entirely. I´m totally fine with stat-boosting packs for single-player RPGs, for example. As a matter of fact, the RAINBOW series from eastasiasoft is a frachise we love here at Vita Player, and they include the possibility of stat boosting through in-app purchases if you prefer to streamline your experience. The nice thing is that this isn´t a necessity to finish the game, either. You can just lower the difficulty of the game at any time, and the need to boost your stats is gone.

So, there´s a choice and the choice is the players´ to make when it comes to whether they want to spend money on boosting their characters or not, and this decision does not affect anybody else, because they are playing a single-player experience. Win-win!

TRADITION IS GOOD

Then, there´s simply DLC. Adding extra content to the base game by means of a paid update. I´m fine with this, though I miss the days when the whole game came in a single cart. I grew up with a Mega Drive, and there´s no DLC for Sonic 3D Blast, and I think the game is all the better for it. But I do understand that there might be people who want more of the game experience, and others who prefer to restrict their experience ot the core game (and the reduce costs that it represents).

Again, it´s a matter of choice, and as long as we´re not compromising the quality of the final product in the single game, we should be good. For example, rhythm games on the Vita that allow for extra songs to be downloaded if you´ve played through the core game? That´s awesome. I´m sure there´s more than one Hatsune Miku fan going mental with that to this day. Same with Jet Set Radio. Even games I adore, like the Senran Kagura and Hyperdymension Neptunia series, offer DLC (both cosmetic and story-driven). Do I wish they were already in the game? Sure. But, to be honest, I don´t feel like the actual games are less of a quality product for their absence. And I do have the choice to simply buy the DLC if I want it.

So, there you have it. These are three ways in which developers can implement in-app purchases without generating endless ire from their players. At the core of this article, we´ve tried to focus on the player and their experience. And, to be honest, as long as both the single-player and multi-player experience isn´t compromised or wildly different for and by people who are willing or able to spend money on their characters, it should be fairly simple to just not screw it up! 

What are your feelings on IAP, DLC and loot boxes? We´d love to hear from you, so do drop us a comment below!

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About Marcos Codas 292 Articles
Lover of portable gaming and horror cinema. Indie filmmaker and game developer. Multimedia producer. Born in Paraguay, raised in Canada. Huge fan of "The Blair Witch Project", and "Sonic 3D Blast". Deputy head at Vita Player and its parent organization, Infinite Frontiers.Like what I do? Donate a coffee: https://www.paypal.me/marcoscodas