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Xsolla updated its payment system to make it easier for game developers to open alternative web shops and raise money through a startup accelerator.
It’s all part of an ongoing strategy to provide the “business engine” for game developers, said Chris Hewish, president of Xsolla, in an interview with GamesBeat. The idea is to offload business services from developers so they can concentrate on making games.
This kind of service is helpful as the industry has to sell games to consumers during a possible global recession, with high inflation and interest rates, tech layoffs, a cryptocurrency winter, and sinking mobile game revenues because of Apple’s privacy changes that have hurt targeted advertising.
“It has certainly been a challenging environment in a macro sense for many industries,” said Hewish. “Fortunately, the video game industry appears to continue to grow. And while not growing at the same pace than it has been over the past few years, we are seeing continued growth in the industry.”
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The Xsolla Accelerator will help early-stage indie developers learn how to prepare for their game launches and get bridge funding for up to $100,000 from investors. The accelerator will help developers manage the growth of their games through user acquisition after the game launches.
The ultimate goal of the accelerator program is to help studios improve and move through the investment stages, starting from where they missed out on initial funding to where they can earn
funding at the correct levels to build and launch a successful game.
Game developers can apply to educational programs led by industry mentors to help shape their game and content production. Accepted developers will also receive exclusive opportunities to connect with a global network of publishers and investors.
“We really like to put our money where our mouth is. And for a long time, we’ve talked about wanting to democratize gaming. We want to help developers succeed and get great games to market direct to the players. So the newest thing that we’re doing to help with that is we’ve launched an accelerator program,” Hewish said. “And this is a program for independent studios, who can apply through Xsolla funding, which is another thing we’ve had for a number of years to help developers get funding.”
Two developers, Magic Hazard (Memory Lost) and Ephemeral Cube (Project Timi: Sasha’s Curse), have already joined the accelerator.
“This isn’t just talk as we’ve already launched the accelerator,” Hewish said. “There’s no real cap on this. We’re looking at anywhere from 10 to 20 developers in Europe.”
In another update, Xsolla Payouts enables developers and publishers to streamline payouts to external content creators and gaming influencers. This way, developers don’t have to go through the painstaking process of paying every single influencer the right amount after a campaign is done.
The payouts are useful for game developers who are processing payouts to user-generated content creators. They also work for an esports platform rewarding its players. It can streamline mass
payouts to hundreds or thousands of individuals.
Xsolla Payouts optimizes operating efficiency by managing multiple contracts with users and content creators, holding tax interviews, facilitating tax reporting, and providing the most accurate account balance calculations.
In addition to processing payouts, Xsolla takes care of the onboarding process, compliance, KYC (know your customer), and tax reporting, which reduces the accounting and integration effort of contracting payment gateways, KYC providers, and tax vendors.
Xsolla’s updated Pay Station helps mobile game developers unlock more revenue with customizable and simplified checkout, said Hewish.
The new Xsolla Pay Station introduces updates to core functionality and is the only cross-platform branded payment experience for the video game industry. Features include an optimized user flow for an improved purchasing experience, a customizable user interface, streamlined mobile payments, and full support of mobile wallets worldwide.
“We are the engine that can drive your business and provide all kinds of solutions,” Hewish said. “And Pay Station is our flagship product. It’s been around for nearly 17 years. It’s a feature that you can put into your game that unlocks over 700 different payment methods covering the entire world, and over 200 countries. And we currently have over 1,000 developers that are using it to process transactions within games and gain direct access to the data that this generates.”
With the Pay Station, developers can provide access across multiple platforms and mobile devices with a wealth of customization and branding options for their games.
Using debit or credit cards is fine, but it leaves out a big portion of player bases where such things aren’t available. About 40% of the gaming audience doesn’t use traditional payments on a global level, Hewish said.
“This is just significant. It’s a large number of players,” Hewish said.
Nexters is one of Xsolla’s partners and it uses Pay Station for Hero Wars, a popular mobile game. The game has been available through a web shop and players have been using more than 240 different alternative payments to pay for items within the game. That makes it easier to convert players into payers in free-to-play mobile games.
“You can customize it to make it feel like it’s more a natural part of your game with your own branding, and your own flow,” Hewish said. “And this reduces friction at checkout, which increases conversion, which we all know is good. Higher conversion is higher revenue.”
Game companies can make the store on the web look more like their own, with branding and intellectual properties that fit the game.
With a streamlined purchasing flow with fewer clicks for players, developers can generate and process more transactions quicker, equating to more revenue for their business. It also has an adaptive checkout experience for video games, especially mobile games, depending on platforms and devices.
Video game developers no longer have to use generic third-party interfaces for checkout. They can
integrate Xsolla Pay Station and control the brand experience from login to completion of a purchase on any platform. Active users can continue playing and enjoy fully branded and immersive experiences, associating ease, convenience, and enjoyment with the game brand. That will lead to return purchases and long-term entertainment.
Xsolla Web Shop
There were more than 28 billion mobile game downloads in the first half of 2022. The Xsolla Web Shop will help developers capture more transactions in their own shops on the web.
Mobile game makers are benefiting from the chance to go direct to consumers through web shops, thanks to litigation and new regulations around the world that will or may require Apple and Google to permit in-app marketing for alternative stores on the web.
“This is a really interesting area that we’re seeing companies have a lot of success with, and in fact that success mitigates some of the things we’ve mentioned,” Hewish said. “Over the years, we’ve seen PC games go direct to consumer. They have been on platforms or they’ve also had their own websites where they sold the game directly to players.”
The updated Xsolla Web Shop lets developers offer expanded bundles, build personalized storefronts, and run promotions. The newly available Xsolla Multi-Platform Publishing helps mobile games reach their cross-platform goals and generate more monetization opportunities.
Xsolla’s popular mobile web shop now provides more opportunities for mobile game developers to power up their marketing efforts and engage users directly by offering expanded bundles, personalized online store experiences, and promotions to players worldwide.
“Building up a webshop is really cool because you can basically put the purchasing for your mobile app up onto the web, on the website, but you want to do more than just build up a web page,” Hewish said. “You want to lean into the opportunity to build a hub for your players, where you can create a sense of community. You can do things to drive more engagement.”
Developers can add interstitial ads to drive more engagement with players. Devs can retarget players from all over the web. You can integrate them into email campaigns or Discord communications. That all leads to higher conversion and revenue.
Xsolla found that for a dozen web shops in the second quarter, the average revenue per unique user for mid-core games was quadruple what it was in the mobile app stores.
“We have companies that are generating more money through their web shops than they are on the App Store, which is just mind blowing,” Hewish said.
In addition, bundles of game keys, in-game items, or virtual currencies are available as a way to provide
additional value to players and incentivize larger purchases in the same transaction session. Bundles are like game keys for in-game items. Devs can personalize promotions and grant them VIP status. Developers can now customize their online store for each user and provide a unique experience based on their preferences after login.
And personalized promotions let developers expand on existing web shop promotions tools to allow mobile developers to offer targeted promotions based on user behavior, preferences, and geography to their VIP users.
This effectively delivers the individual user more personally compelling offers, thereby increasing digital goods and currency purchases as an integral part of their favorite mobile game experience.
And the Xsolla Multi-Platform Publishing let mobile game devs support mobile game delivery to PC and the web. With a custom, branded client app and a seamless one-click authentication tool, mobile game developers can reach new gamers at a lower acquisition cost while increasing player loyalty and LTV. By bringing their game to new platforms, developers can grow their revenue potential by monetizing their games in new geographies. A larger set of payment options is more likely to convert non-paying players into paying players in underserved markets.
Xsolla has been around since 2005 helping game devs and publishers with payments and other business services. Hewish recommends developers hire good community managers and stay close to the fans.
“While we talk about democratizing gaming, and giving the tools to go direct to consumer, we do recognize that every game and every game maker is different,” Hewish said. “We’re not going to tell people what to do. But we absolutely will provide guidance and advice based on what we are seeing work. This is around evolving their businesses outside of the App Store, going direct to consumers. It’s a new business model with new challenges.”
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