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Amazon: Tutorials, social and exclusive IAP key to attracting big spenders

Technology evangelist Mario Viviani offers advice on how to generate more through microtransactions

Introducing the benefits of in-game items, encouraging longer player sessions and rewarding the most valuable users are just some of the areas developers may be neglecting in their freemium games.

That's according to Amazon technology evangelist Mario Viviani, who offered insight into some of the best practices demonstrated by the highest grossing apps during a TIGA event in London this morning. Viviani told attendees that some mobile studios aren't bringing in as much revenue from their in-app purchases because the benefits of those purchases aren't explained clearly.

"Tutorial is extremely important, and highly overlooked by some developers," he said. "You want to train your users, make them accustomed to spending. But don't just train them on how to purchase an item - also demonstrate the advantage of using it. Training your user on how to use an in-game item, when to use it is a great way to prompt your user to purchasing them later on."

He added that devs should look more closely at their in-store listings to see if the benefits of each item are really clear. In one example he gave, a studio found they increased spending on certain IAP when they added a sticker declaring how much score bonus users would receive to each listing.

Viviani also said that while developers need to look after all their customers, they should make sure what he referred to as power users feel valued. These are users who spend more than $50 per month, with Amazon reporting the average power user spends just under $200 per month.

But these big spenders "tend to focus their passion" towards just a few apps, with Amazon figures showing that of the customers who spent $1,000 or more in January, 80% invested three-quarters of their spending in just two apps.

One way to retain these users' loyalty is to "make them feel special", Viviani said, suggesting introducing unique items targeted at the highest-paying users.

"Think about offering exclusives," he continued. "You want big spenders to feel special about your game, and one way to do this is to provide items that are exclusive to them. Try to understand their connection with your game and why they are spending. Is there a specific category of items they're investing in?"

He went on to discuss price points for IAP, which typically range from $0.99 to $99.99. In a cohort analysis Amazon carried out - splitting apps into Top 50 highest grossing and the rest of the marketplace - the platform holder found that games outside the Top 50 often focused on offering more lower-priced items at $0.99 and $1.99 under the assumption that users don't want to spend too much money.

However, the apps in the Top 50 had a better balance between the cheap and expensive in-game items, and proved to be better at showcasing and promoting the higher-priced purchases within the game.

"Don't focus all your attention on the lower-priced items," Viviani advised. "Focus on delivering quality items to your power users."

Length of playing session is also crucial. Offering the example of Flappy Bird, Viviani pointed to the fact that users could retry after failure with just the tap of one button, while other titles force players through a few menus and level screens before they can get back into the game.

He also urged developers to think about the average playing session length. While many mobile games are built around short, snack-sized sessions, the Top 50 highest grossing apps showed an average session of 23 minutes. The average for the rest of the market was 15 minutes - and Viviani stressed that even eight minutes can make a difference when trying to convince a user to spend.

Finally, he said that social functionality - even in titles that are not built around multiplayer - can be instrumental in improving a game's retention.

"I'm very surprised when I see new games that don't include any social engagement, not even leaderboards," he said. "Leaderboards are not the baseline, the most basic requirement to having a game that's engaging. Adding achievements and leaderboards gives players a reason to come back. They want to beat their score, beat their friends and prove how good they are at the game."

You can find more of Viviani's advice in his presentation here.

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James Batchelor avatar
James Batchelor: James is Editor-in-Chief at, and has been a B2B journalist since 2006. He is author of The Best Non-Violent Video Games
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