According to this article on IGN, mobile game users are playing more than ever. Among these are some of the youngest players ever, with an average starting age of picking up gaming just 8 years old. Claims the article:
According to the NPD Group, 53 percent of total mobile users say the time they spend on mobile gaming has increased this year. Teens (ages 12-17) spend seven hours a week playing mobile games, compared to only five a week in 2011.
What does this mean? For starters, that developers have a huge and rapidly growing user base to cater to. With the rise of in-app transactions steadily increasing year after year, developers will probably want to use microtransactions to fuel many of their games. With young users, however, there are a few steps to bear in mind to ensure a safe and still monetizing game. Read on to learn more!
Understand the Young Demographic
To cater to the large number of children who now have access to computer and mobile games, it’s important to understand a bit more about them as a demographic. While online games are still popular, the majority of kids are swinging onto the mobile train. Take these numbers from Gamasutra:
In a recently filed report, drawn from a study of 3,842 minors between two and 17 years old, the NPD concluded that while desktop, laptop and console games remained the “top device types” for game play, “almost as many” minors are going to mobile for their games. The NPC reports that mobile play among children in the 12-17 bracket has risen to an average of 7 hours a week in the last year, versus an average of 5 hours a week in 2011.
With this is mind, make sure your game is kid friendly and intuitive. Children pick up gameplay quickly, and can engage rapidly with new systems of play. Keeping the game simple, however, will increase players’ reactions to repeated engagement. This can be true of any game, not just ones for kids. But, it’s important to remember this market has a lot of possible users with great gameplay. For example, 7 out of 10 young children are playing apps these days according to Appsec, and they engage with the content anywhere from 10.5-9.5 hours a week.
Another characteristic to understand about the younger demographics is that they do not have disposable income, and often rely on their parents for the extra spending money for games. This means that games should not only be careful about the sorts of in-app purchases that appear, but also that there a few steps developers can take in regards to payments to avoid problems with kids’ games payments.
Modify Your Payment System to…
Remove Credit Cards as the Number One Method
Grigoriy Romanyuk, Integration Manager of Xsolla, says:
We often remove credit cards as the first and foremost method of payment when we customize Xsolla for our clients with children’s themed games. This is because with credit cards, children need their parents permission to buy anything, or we could be slammed with a large number of paybacks or fraud issues.
Take a look at this article about a large unexpected bill from a couple last year whose son spent over $1,000 on a mobile Simpsons game, which is just one of many similar cases since mobile has gained such widespread popularity, especially among children younger and younger. To prevent this, it is wise to employ a third party biller. This acts as a gateway between players and developers in many ways, opening up the user base while it simultaneously can help to restrict troublesome purchases. Xsolla, for example, suggests and aides developers to remove the option for a credit card as first mode of payment.
Offer Cash or Prepaid Cards Instead
When you remove or put the credit card information in the back, you need to think of what you’ll replace that spot with. Xsolla has found that suggesting prepaid cards is a great way to maintain conversion rates and keep children’s purchases safe. Prepaid cards can be given to children and stored on a payment platform so parents always know how much the kid has to play with. It ensures no surprise bills for the family, and acts as securely as a credit card would.
Include Mobile Payment Option
Xsolla offers mobile payments (both, premium SMS and direct carrier billing), and it is an interesting option for payment compared to other, more straightforward methods. Although many may argue it is not the most ideal option (to avoid someone racking up sky-high mobile bills), with a regulated purchase plan for their kids, parents can actually enjoy a hassle-free method of purchasing game content. There’s no need to store a credit card or even worry about paying multiple bills, all the charges will be rolled into one. Keeping this in as a viable purchase method when organizing a game’s payment platform is a good idea for children’s game developers.
Encourage Recurring Payments
By enabling a recurring monthly subscription or an automatic fill-up, parents can monitor their children’s gaming and spending habits. This can set boundaries for child players: a certain budget per month or week will let parents know how often their kids are paying and how much. Automatic fill-ups can also ensure their children are staying within the correct method of payment and not inputting other cards or avenues of purchase/ This also lets parents know their child always has the correct form of payment for their ease of mind and to ensure their game is always full of the correct amount of currency.
Find Alternate Payment Methods
Parents may be wary of giving their children cash for lunch or food spending money, for fear of that cash being stolen or misplaced. There has been a rise in the number of children who receive Subway cards as a method of after-school allowance. Many manufacturers offer such gift cards as extra prizes or promotional tools, such as with buying new electronics or signing up for a TV subscription.
These are as good as prepaid cards for mobile and online transactions. Many children (and their parents alike) turn to these tools as a viable method of getting in-game currency or items. Because of their rise in popularity, it would be a wise step to promote such gift cards as a premier method of payment within your payment platform. Xsolla can track statistics about users in the local area, and which are the most popular methods and automatically suggest those methods.
In short, it is extremely beneficial to think about the youth user base and how they interact with your game. Making sure your payment systems work for children and kids easily and smoothly ensures no parent backlash over unauthorized credit card purchases. Because children do not have credit cards, it is a wise decision to take that method of payment out of option by default in kid-oriented games. Instead, offer prepaid and gift cards predominantly, suggest recurring payments, and remind users of the option to use their mobile carrier for charges.