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Virtual currency vs directly buying items IAP

06-26-2013, 09:52 AM
Joined: May 2010
Location: Tampa, FL
Posts: 308
Virtual currency vs directly buying items IAP

Say you have 10-15 IAP items. Some are consumable and some are permanent upgrades to the game (new unit, more levels, etc). You have 2 choices with how users can get these items. One you can simply charge for the item directly as an IAP, or you can charge for a virtual currency, which the user then can buy the items with.

Are there any articles discussing this or do you have any wisdom to share on the subject? (Note this is for a paid high quality game).

Advantages of each:

Direct purchase:
  • exact tracking of purchases
  • easier for buyer to understand real cost of item (may be a bad thing?)
  • non-consumable items can be restored and shared across devices

Virtual Currency:
  • user can earn currency by doing game actions
  • items can be fractional values of currency (less than $0.99)
  • incentive for larger purchases (more virtual currency per dollar)
  • easier to manage new item data structures in game (don't have to update ITC with new items)

I'm leaning toward virtual currency, but the biggest problem I see with it is the player losing all of their items and features they've paid for, how to apps that don't require user accounts deal with this? Is it simply up to the user to do backups?

Developer of RTS Machines at War 3 for iOS, Android, Mac, Windows.
RTS Land Air Sea Warfare for iOS, Android, Mac, Windows.

Last edited by Rasterman; 06-26-2013 at 09:55 AM.
06-26-2013, 11:52 AM
Joined: Jun 2009
Posts: 396
Don't think of it as either or. You should pick what's right for that particular purchase. You can use iCloud to backup purchases.
06-26-2013, 01:47 PM
Joined: Jun 2013
Location: Santa Maria, RS - Brazil
Posts: 20
In case of direct purchase, would those items also be buyable through normal in-game currency? I think the most important thing in a game with IAP is assuring that it's possible to enjoy the game without having to buy anything else; spending money for items should be a "tool for the impatient", not something every player should do to get the most of out of the game. I believe this to be true (or, at the very least, ethical) in any Freemium game, but it is specially important if the user had to pay for the game to begin with.

You can achieve this with direct purchase if the items are also buyable through in-game currency, but I'd still argue in favor of selling virtual currency instead. As you mentioned yourself in the advantages of this scenario, you can be more granular with the item prices, so the player will feel he's getting more for his money.

I quickly checked a few infinite-runner type games I have on my phone and they all seem to follow that model. The games were Subway Surfers, Jetpack Joyride and Temple Run. A few games, like Madcoaster and Pitfall, use a similar model, but with two different in game currencies (coins and diamonds/gems/whatever).