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Mobile Game Web Stores: Should You Build or Buy Your Tech?

AppCharge asks the question every developer and publisher should be thinking about in 2024 - When it comes to Web Stores - Should You Build or Buy?
Mobile Game Web Stores: Should You Build or Buy Your Tech?
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In 2023, nearly every major mobile games publisher launched a web store. There’s a reason for this: by carving out a direct-to-consumer sales platform, publishers bypass the traditional 30 percent fees on all transactions. In doing so, they can provide users with exclusive and generous offers while significantly increasing profit margins.

It’s a much-needed win for publishers, who are feeling the squeeze due to challenging industry trends, and it’s also a win for players, who receive far more value for their money in the offers presented to them in web stores.

With these tailwinds, we expect to see a surge in web store adoption in 2024 from both medium and large-sized publishers and developers. Which begs the question: how do you actually create a web store?

There are two options: building your web store in-house from scratch or using a white-label, out-of-the-box web store platform.

By the end of this guide, you’ll understand the pros and cons of each approach and be a step closer to executing your game’s web store.

Let’s dive in.

What’s behind a successful mobile game web store?

There’s more to a mobile game web store than meets the eye. Here’s a breakdown of some of the key components:

  • Robust Merchant of Record infrastructure to handle payments
  • Captivating design and seamless UX
  • Gamification mechanics
  • Constant new offers and events
  • Social features
  • Ability to test new content easily
  • Behavior-based player segmentation

With this in mind, let’s take a look at the pros and cons of building a web store in-house from scratch, before looking at the alternative approach - leveraging a white-label platform where the tech is already taken care of.

Building your own game web store from scratch

The pros of building your own web store

Ownership and control

Building a web store in-house means your tech and tools are yours and only yours. You’ll always be in full control, eliminating any risks posed by the reliance on a third-party vendor, and keeping communication internal - especially useful if you have a big team.

In addition, your web store will become part of your studio’s core IP, adding value to your company.

Complete customisation

When you have a team of in-house engineers and product designers building your web store from scratch, you’re able to mold your store whatever way you’d like to meet the specific needs of your game.

That’s an attractive proposition for many developers, but it comes with a cost. Dedicating a team to not only take a web store from 0 to 1 but then maintain and customise it constantly once it’s live is a major commitment, both in time and money.

Higher margins on sales

White label web store solutions take anywhere from 5 percent to 15 percent per transaction. While still a far cry from the traditional platforms’ 30 percent cut, some developers may deem it worth the investment to avoid fees altogether by building their web store in-house.

This means they can pocket the highest possible margins per transaction. However, that must be weighed against the considerable cost of hiring a dedicated team of engineers and product designers to build and manage the store.

The cons of building your own game web store

It’s expensive and time-consuming

Some studios with enough manpower can put together a team from their existing workforce to at least build an MVP of a web store.

But to build a robust web store, equipped with all the functionality and features that keep players coming back and making repeat purchases, you’ll need to hire a team of specialist engineers and product designers.

We’ve seen large publishers dedicate 10 to 15 people to building a web store. Not only is it a lengthy process to hire the right people, but once you have them it also takes considerable time to build and launch the store. That’s expensive - both in time and in money.

Being your own Merchant of Record is a headache

When you start selling to players outside of the traditional App Stores, which take care of all Merchant of Record services as part of their 30 percent cut, you need to manage all this entails by yourself.

Becoming your own Merchant of Record means hiring experts to handle local taxes, currencies, exchange rates, invoicing, billing and fraud prevention. This newfound responsibility also introduces the risk of exceeding chargeback limits, potentially resulting in penalties or even the blocking of your game by payment providers.

If managing these financial intricacies seems overwhelming, opting for a third-party payment solution is a prudent choice.

Maintenance and management is an ongoing burden

A successful web store isn’t completed once it’s been launched. Just like a mobile game, it is a living, breathing entity that requires constant iteration and optimisation.

If you build your web store internally, every change to your web store - from new artwork to new gamification mechanics - will require development work. Ultimately, this slows down your time-to-market for every iteration and creates operational overheads.

Building your own web store: a brief summary

Building your own mobile game web store is a huge investment in time, effort, and money. But building in-house does give you the ownership, control, customisation, and margins per transaction you need to make top-grossing games.

If you have the team size, the expertise, and the financial resources to make it happen, as well as the capacity to execute with speed and quality, then it's a smart move to build out your own game web store.

The problem?

Well, you're looking at a minimum of five highly-skilled (and very expensive) software engineers just to get you started.

Once you've found them, they need to become closely intertwined with the game development, LiveOps, and game monetisation teams, ensuring that as new features, events, and offers are added to the game and product roadmap, the web store is able to support these initiatives simultaneously.

All the while, you need to ensure all of this effort is supported by robust Merchant of Record services to handle the complex world of payments.

It's a tall order to execute, but done right, it pays off. But is it worth it? Well, it depends what the alternatives are.

Using a white-label web store for your mobile game

Using a white-label platform, instead of developing your own technology, can be an incredibly efficient and powerful way to build out your mobile game web store.

The pros of using web store tech for your game

When chosen smartly, ready-made and purpose-built web store technology can supercharge your mobile game’s bottom line profit. Let's take a look at four of the top reasons why.

Maximise your profits

Hiring a team of specialist engineers to develop your web store, a process which we’ve seen take 1 to 2 years for large publishers, is extremely expensive.

But, in the same way you can bypass the traditional app stores’ 30 percent fees by launching a web store, you can also bypass the aforementioned development costs by leveraging an out-of-the-box platform.

Appcharge, for instance, takes just a 5 percent fee per transaction.

Faster time-to-market

With a seamless API integration using a white label platform, you can get a web store - based on battle-tested technology and with all the features you need to succeed - to market in a matter of weeks. Compare that to the time it takes to actually begin earning from an internally built web store - remember you need to assemble a team of engineers, develop a platform, and ship it - you’re saving a huge amount of time. And time is money.

Payments taken care of

Payment infrastructure is one of the biggest headaches faced by publishers who opt to build web stores in-house. A white-label web store platform handles all of your Merchant of Record needs, which is a game-changer for any company facing down the prospect of hiring experts to handle local taxes, currencies, exchange rates, invoicing, billing, chargebacks, and fraud prevention.

Easy updates and optimisation

The right white-label web store platform makes it easy to update your store with new designs, art work, gamification mechanics, special offers, and more.

Given that most games these days operate as live services with dynamic LiveOps and frequent optimisation, it’s crucial that you can update your web store frequently and without unnecessary hassle to keep up with this cadence.

The Clear Advantage of White-Label Web Store Platforms

In conclusion, while building your own web store may offer a sense of control, the pragmatic choice lies in embracing the efficiency, expertise, and cost-effectiveness of white-label web store platforms.

As we anticipate a surge in web store adoption in 2024, the advantages of maximizing profits, faster time-to-market, and simplified operations make the case for choosing a white-label solution compelling for savvy game developers aiming for success in the direct-to-consumer landscape.

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