Pricing in mobile games

Pricing for IAP in mobile games is a sore point for developers. Why one item should cost a buck, and the other should be offered for free, how to make users want to pay themselves, and how not to scare them away from the game with high prices – these and many other questions were answered in her article on the Pocket Gamer portal by the creator of Pocket Legends mobile MMO Zoya Street from Spacetime Studios. 

The key question for all developers of free-to-play games is: what is the cost of in-game items formed from? Often, not only they, but also publishers and users do not understand this. So one of the main tasks for the entire market today is to destroy the usual connection between the cost of an item and the effort spent on its creation. 

Let some developers still believe that gamers should appreciate their projects for the time and effort spent on development, but, in fact, it is much better not to hope for someone’s love, but to focus on additional content. 

So, among other things, you will not only earn more, but your efforts will not be in vain. It is well known that hardcore projects, which are not yet so typical of paid downloadable add-ons, users, as a rule, do not pass. For example, the 2010 hit Red Dead Redemption was completed by only 7% of players. Many, not even half passed. Accordingly, it is not clear for whom the remaining half was made, it would not be better to feed it to the players for a fee. 

In this regard, it is much easier for developers of mobile and social games: they spend much less time and effort on creating content (it is much easier to draw a toy house and a couple of beautiful icons than a separate location), but both moral and monetary returns are not an example more.  

In general, the conclusion is as follows: the price of a virtual item is not related to production costs. 

Look at meThe purpose of this material is to explain, using the example of Pocket Legends, how the design of in–game items gives virtual objects value in the eyes of users and leads to a high cost of IAP.

So, there are hundreds of theories about what creates the value of an item. According to one of them, considering the world as a network of social relations (which, in fact, perfectly fits the existing situation), the value of objects is the difference between the representation of social status and its transfer.

Representation of social status is the display of a recognizable symbol on a particular object, as a rule, personifying wealth, prestige, well–being. The value of such an object is formed by those who understand what is behind the sign applied to it. For example, in Russia, the same iPhone was just such a representation until recently. Possessing this quality, he transferred his status to the owner in the eyes of a certain stratum of society. The latter fits perfectly into the rule according to which the transfer of such a sign to something repeatedly enhances the value of any object. 

As for the transfer (translation) of social status, it means the formation of a price in the classical way, based on the cost of materials and labor costs required to create a particular item. Silk, gold and Ferraris are expensive only because they require a large number of resources and labor for their creation. And a person can be respected not because he is so fashionable, but because he worked a lot for this very Ferrari. 

We applied the principle of representation and transfer when forming the cost of items in Pocket Legends, so that their cost is “intuitively justified”. 

Weapons and consumables in our game are cheap, unlike accessories and fashionable armor. The user can spend serious amounts on the latter (as a rule, any element of the armor costs 5 platinum as standard). 

In other words, in a world where power-ups cost little, the value of in-game things comes from the representation and translation of social status and achievements.

The Almighty Crown of DreamsThe Pocket Legends store has a special section where items are sold that do not affect the gameplay in any way (medium or weak characteristics, lack of bonuses), but they look cool.


These items are much more expensive than any other. And the most expensive of them in the whole store is the Almighty Crown of dreams for 500 platinum coins (the rate is as follows: 10 platinum coins – $ 1.99, and 2000 coins – $89.99). 

What can justify such a high price of this crown?

I propose to proceed from two components here. The first is status. 

This helmet in the game is a very bright thing. According to the scale of the game, it is gigantic at all: it covers the entire head of the character and shoulders. As a result, wearing this item, the hero is completely transformed.

But it’s not just about transformation, but also about execution. The helmet is made in the form of a golden calf’s head. The texture of the helmet sparkles, shimmers, reflects the light falling on it, while the eyes of the taurus burn with red fire, as if coming from somewhere inside. 

And such a bright visual component inherent in the helmet shows the high gaming status of the owner.

The second component of justifying such a high helmet price is brand commitment.

The description of the helmet is as follows: “For those who have spent an insane amount of time playing Pocket Legends.” 

The text clearly hints at the connection between value and time spent on the game. This value of the thing is ultimately translated into dedication to the project. 

After all, expensive IAPs are, as a rule, status things that are usually earned by wasting their own time.

Of course, it is not necessary to spend a huge amount of time on grinding to earn 500 platinum to buy a helmet, you can just buy it for real money. But it is assumed that by this purchase the player proves his loyalty to the company. 

And here we turn to another type of items, which was originally created to represent value as loyalty. 

In Pocket Legends, you can buy bat wings. These wings do not affect anything functionally, but they are very decent. They are a reference to another Spacetime Studio game – Dark Legends. In the description to them it was even written that these are “training wheels for young vampires who are just learning to fly.” 

These items are designed to cross-promote other studio games. By buying them, the user demonstrates his loyalty to the studio, his commitment to the brand.

Bat wings are a relatively cheap purchase (10 platinum), but to assemble a whole set of “bat” is expensive. A user who has bought wings and wants to collect a set of items must spend a lot of time grinding to collect enough platinum coins or just buy them. 

Ultimately, collecting items increases users’ attachment to the game. 

In general, in any game, the IAP design should take into account what players consider valuable and important in their own gaming experience, and then broadcast it as in-game items.

Write a comment...
Related news