Using Gamification: It’s Not All Play Money

If you have ever played a game on a mobile device, then you know that most gaming apps attempt to entice users to use real money at least at some point in their gameplay. More specifically, some games cost money to begin play, while others are free but come with the option to use real money to further gameplay. If you are in the to of building a gaming app for mobile devices, you will inevitably need to consider whether to tempt users with accelerated play in exchange for real money, as well as the associated drawbacks that may be come with such strategy.

Real And Play Money

Imagine if you could play your favorite board game with real money. Think about getting a real $200 amount when you pass Go while playing Monopoly. Might be fun, right? Well, that is, until you go bankrupt and lose all your money. For users, putting real money into a fictitious game on their iPhone or other mobile device is a tough decision. While some are willing to pony up the dough traded in for game currency, others listen to the voice of reason telling them that there will not be any return on their investment. As such gamification elements have been compared to gambling, for users, they are different in that putting money into a mobile app is merely for entertainment purposes, and not winnings.

On the other hand, as the app maker, you ultimately make the decision whether to initiate the exchange of play money for the user’s real money. And while this certainly can create profit potential for your company, it can also agitate users that just want to enjoy the simple pleasure of a game with being hounded for money.

A good example is found with the city-building app called Megapolis. It is very popular and highly reviewed with almost 3,000 reviews on the App Store while currently (as of April 2013) sitting at a four star rating. Megapolis is a free app, but does a good job of enticing users to further their gameplay by investing real money. And some do, because otherwise the game becomes drawn out and boring, whereas it is quite fun when there is money (real and fake) for the user to spend. Megapolis successfully monetizes its mobile offering in a way that does not bother users too severely, which is partly why it is so popular.

Realistically, it is best to take a modest approach to selling gamification. You can either offer your app for a price without enticing users to pay as they play, or you can offer it for free and give them the option to pay real money to further their gameplay. For the latter, it is best to provide users with the option without bombarding them with pop up ads soliciting them for real money.