Engine

Monetization Foundations

Introduction

Monetization is an integral part of your experience's initial and ongoing development. Monetization features are some of the most prominent content interaction spaces and directly impacts an experience's monetary growth potential. There are 5 key components that comprise monetization foundations:

  • Items
  • The shop
  • Merchandising
  • Starter packs
  • Season passes

Taken together, these components can foster a thriving economy within your experience, maximize your experience's monetary growth potential, and foster a strong relationship with your players. For a comprehensive list of key monetization terms, see the glossary.

Items

Items and shop introduction

Items

Items are individual pieces of content available to earn or purchase. The essence of monetization can be represented in three basic questions:

  • What is being sold?
  • Where is it being sold?
  • How is it being sold?

When deciding what kind of items to create, first determine what items makes sense for your experience. You know your players best, and you hold the creative vision for the experience you want them to have. Be aware if your players are competitive, collaborative, casual, or experienced. Know if your experience is easy to learn or if it require more time to get the most out of the content you've created.

Most importantly, determine what purpose each item you sell should serve. If a player purchases an item they should find value in it and be able to easily identify its relevancy to the experience.

In Doors, players explore dark hallways and rooms, and can purchase a flashlight before starting a session. The flashlight is then used to light up the darkness and aid the player in exploration. This tangible and immediately understood value seamlessly integrates into the experience and encourages players to purchase it. When describing your items for purchase, it's important to be accurate and truthful in your descriptions so players know exactly what they're buying and the value it provides.

Flashlight in Doors

Purchasable items can be divided into two categories:

  • Durable items: Items that can be used or applied an unlimited number of times, such as cosmetic skins.
    Skin in Tower Defense Simulator
  • Consumable items: Items that have limited uses, such as temporary boosts.
    Consumable item in Evade

They can then be further divided into categories of utility:

  • Enhancement: These items improve the experience in some way, such as granting increased speed, protection, strength, tools or event mode access.
  • Expression: These items personalize the player's experience and makes them unique, such as skins, emotes, and pets.

The Shop

The shop

The shop is where players go to enhance and personalize their experience through the purchasing of virtual items. The shop should be as interesting and intentionally designed as other parts of your experience.

The shop is one of the first places players start to learn more about an experience's economy and its variety of content, and serves as an information hub about current, new, and upcoming content. It also provides feedback for you to learn what type of purchasable content your players enjoy. A good shop is:

  • Integrated
  • Contextual
  • Inviting

Integrated

To be effective, a shop needs to be effectively integrated within the experience and easy to find. The shop icon should be consistent with the rest of your UI design and overall environment. Opening up the shop should be a seamless transaction from the interaction and gameplay experience, with players able to jump in and out of the shop quickly without feeling disrupted.

Shop UI in Doors

Contextual

A good shop is contextual. If a new player only knows the name and price of an item without the surrounding context of other purchasable options, they won't know what kind of value it provides compared to other items in the experience.

The design decisions of organizing the items in your shop keeps players informed and ensures that potential customers know what they're looking at, why it's useful, and how they might utilize it and enjoy it if they were to purchase it. An example of this is seen in Doors:

  • Future anticipation: Players are alerted that "Knobs", the experience's in-game currency, is receiving more use cases in the future. This alerts players that additional content is coming to utilize the in-game currency, which both builds anticipation for a future release and increases the perceived value of the product.

  • Present explanation: Players are given the explanation and context of purchasable "Revives". This alerts players that reviving is a core part of the gameplay experience and that this functionality is limited. As players navigate the shop, explanations like this help players accumulate knowledge about the experience.

    Shop in Doors

Inviting

A good shop is inviting. Compare the shop in your experience to a brick and mortar mall. A good shop is a destination that provides options, atmosphere, and its own form of entertainment as a place to hang out and learn about different products. Design your shop as a place to linger and browse.

Consider what you want players to do when they enter your experience each time before they engage with your primary content. If there is a lobby area, consider what kind of interactions players have with each other and the other parts of the UI that could encourage them to visit the store.

New content and item updates invites players back to the store to see what's new. When players know that new items will be in stock the next day, or at some point in the near future, they're likely to return. Rotating shop items can be an exciting addition to your content strategy and help keep players interested in your experience.

Shop in Dragon Adventures

Merchandising

Merchandising

Merchandising is how players become aware of what's being sold in the shop. Merchandising is how you:

  • Attract attention
  • Communicate value

Attract Attention

How you attract attention to your shop and items depends on your experience's unique style. Pet Simulator X uses descriptive language to build excitement.

Shop in Dragon Adventures

Interesting imagery using creative art and animations can make each purchase experience memorable and worthwhile for your players, but be careful not to overuse terms like "exclusive" or "limited" in order to maintain their effectiveness over time.

Communicate value

You can effectively communicate the value of items in your shop by employing the following techniques:

  • Clear language and imagery
  • Chance-based merchandise
  • Bundles

Clear Language and Imagery

Clear language and imagery help show why purchasing an item is worthwhile. It's important to clearly show the benefit of the item, whether it's a percentage bonus, percentage savings or number of uses. MeloBlox Adventure is very clear and organized, leading with the term "VIP Benefits" at the top and listing the extensive number of benefits players can expect to receive.

VIP rewards in MeloBlox Simulator

Discounts and bonuses are another example of clear language and imagery used to communicate value. In this example, you can see that the value of this special offer is shown with the original price of 3000 Robux struck through and the special offer price of 799 Robux. The change in price suggests the purchase is at a deep discount. A similar technique is used in The Survival Game, with the store specifying the percentage bonus of additional coins in each increasing bundle.

Shop in The Survival Game

Another example of using clear language and imagery to communicate value is through using limited availability, which draws attention to an item or shop category that is only available for a short time. The brevity of availability increases a perception of value, but make sure this approach is used selectively to avoid reducing its effectiveness.

Shop in World // Zero

In all cases, ensure that your merchandising terms and item descriptions are truthful and accurate so players know exactly what they will receive. Be mindful to not "oversell" items and remember that you are building a relationship with your players that depends on obtaining and maintaining trust.

Chance-Based Merchandising

Another common merchandising strategy is to use a chance-based system. In chance-based systems, players don't purchase items directly, but instead purchase the opportunity to receive several kinds of items, usually of varying rarity. There are three common variations of this technique: There are three common variations of this technique:

  • Chance Wheel: Each possible item is shown on the wheel, and players buy spin tokens.

    Chance wheel in Dragon Adventure
  • Machine Style: Each possible item is contained within a capsule, and players purchase the ability to pull a lever and get one of the possible listed rewards.

    Machine Style Creatures of Sonaria
  • Mystery Box: Each possible item is given a percentage chance of being acquired based on rarity, and players purchase the ability to open the box and see what's inside.

    Mystery Box in Murder Mystery 2

For more information on how to design fair loot boxes from two experts in the field, watch this video.

Bundles

Bundles are a great way to package up items that go together, whether it's a group of items that new players would find appealing or items that share a common theme. Because a bundle has multiple items, ensure players can clearly see each one and let them know what each item does. As best practice, have a comparison to other bundles to gauge the value of grouped items.

Starter Packs

Starter packs

The starter pack is a limited time purchase option presented to new players who first join an experience. It's a player's first look at the items in the shop the developer believes are relevant to early gameplay. It's also a new player's first interaction with Robux exchange rates and pricing.

The starter pack can give new players a positive impression of the overall monetization strategy and provide key contextual information needed to understand the experience. Keep in mind that you're asking players for money very soon after their initial joining. Take care to begin building a customer relationship that ensures your players will derive an obvious benefit from their first purchase.

Common durations for starter packs are anywhere from a day to a week, depending on the experience's design. This natural limitation makes starter packs an ideal candidate for applying of merchandising best practices, such as:

  • Prominent locations
  • Thoughtful designs
  • Contextual descriptions
  • Price calculations

Prominent Location

For a beginner that is not yet familiar with your experience, showcase the starter pack in a place that is easy to find. If you place it prominently, consider how much information you need to provide so the purchase makes sense to the player who might not know anything about the experience.

Starter pack in My Restaurant!

There are several good places to surface the starter pack in your UI. Clicking into the starter pack icon can open the offer directly, or open the offer in the context of the experience's shop.

Thoughtful Design

Once you decide how players will see the starter pack, consider the starter pack visualization. Opening the offer in the shop encourages players to get familiar with the shop in general and can serve as a natural transition to exploring all the options available for purchase.

Starter pack in Sword Fighters Simulator

Contextual Descriptions

Contextual descriptions tell the player why the items are significant and the value they provide. Intentionally designing descriptions to teach players about the impact of the items on the gameplay can serve as a tutorial before they even start playing.

Contextual description in Sword Fighters Simulator

Price Calculations

The starter pack should be merchandised as a special deal using price calculations to help show the item's value. Make sure when assembling the bundle to calculate the cost of each individual item visually, clearly indicating the kind of discount players will get. This helps players understand the value of the presented item compared to other items in the shop.

Price calculation in Sword Fighters Simulator

Season Passes

Season passes

Season passes are limited-time, quest-based progression systems that are part of a game's content cadence. Players complete quest objectives to earn rewards for the duration of the pre-defined period of time or "season". While similar in name, season passes are not game passes. Game passes are one-time purchases that confer gameplay bonuses.

To learn how to implement game passes into your experiences, see the article on game passes.

To learn how to design an effective season pass, see season pass design.

A good season pass includes the following characteristics:

  • Item shop best practices
  • Free and premium passes
  • Attractive rewards
  • Manageable timeframe
  • Progression system

Item Shop Best Practices

A good season pass follows item shop best practices. It's content is:

  • Integrated
  • Contextual
  • Inviting

Integrated

The season pass should be easy to find and integrated into the aesthetic of the experience. Consider whether your visual affordance is clear enough for a new player to know that the UI element refers to your season pass specifically and not your entire shop.

Season pass in Bot Clash Simulator

Contextual

A good season pass is contextual and organized, clearly communicating the rewards available to players and how to achieve them. Describing item rewards in relation to gameplay and contextualizing them to other virtual items or mechanics helps players understand a reward's value and why they should try to earn them. Consider stating exactly how much time remains in the season for players to earn rewards to avoid confusion or missed opportunities.

Season pass in Bot Clash Simulator

Inviting

Good season passes are inviting. As a subset of an experience's shop, season passes should present the player an opportunity to linger and gleam a deeper understanding of an experience's core loop. The rewards available from a season pass should inform the player of what items or mechanics are at the heart of an experience, inviting them to explore the extent of rewards available at the furthest ends of the reward tracks.

Descriptive and enticing rewards in Bot Clash Simulator

Free and Premium Passes

Good season passes have both a free and premium pass that present opportunities for players to earn rewards. The free pass is a set of rewards which any player can earn by engaging with the missions or tasks provided. The free season pass often serves as a more advanced version of daily quests. The premium pass is a superset of the free pass rewards and enables paid players the opportunity to earn even more. Having both free and premium passes ensures that non-paying players can still earn rewards and enjoy your experience, while rewarding paying players with worthwhile bonuses.

Free and premium passes in Jailbreak

For more about free and premium passes, see season pass design.

For more about daily quests, see quest design.

Attractive rewards

A good season pass has worthwhile rewards for players to earn. Merchandising techniques like previewing item rewards is an effective way to communicate this to your players. These rewards should also appeal to most players to attract the broadest possible segment of your community. Start by making the rewards relate to the core loop. It's important to clearly present what items are included in both the free and premium passes to avoid having players guess what rewards are available from each. Doing this enables players to have concrete goals, allowing for deeper immersion and longer engagement as they actively strive to earn the attractive rewards that stand out to them.

Final reward in Jailbreak

Manageable Timeframes

With the right implementation, season passes can be great for day-to-day engagement and longer term retention. Having manageable timeframes ensures that players feel adequately rewarded for the time they spend playing the experience. Similar to daily quests, consider designing the distance between rewards on your season pass relative to the average session time for players who join your experience. Ensure that progression is based on completion of short and long term missions, and that the amount of experience points needed to move through each level is clearly communicated.

Daily missions Dragon Adventures
Weekly missions Dragon Adventures

Glossary

For a list of common monetization terms, consult the table below.

TermDefinition
BundleA group of in-experience items packaged into a single purchasable item
Chance-based Merchandising(See Merchandising) A method of content sale and distribution that leverages set probabilities to give users a % chance to obtain one of several items
EconomyThe numerical system dictating the impact of users' behaviors in pursuit of and in response to content present in the experience and the inflows and outflows of currencies
EnhancementA category of in-experience item that improves the user's experience or capabilities in some way.
ExpressionA category of in-experience item that personalizes the user's experience but typically does not provide a benefit to the user's capabilities.
Hard CurrencyCurrency that is unique to a specific game and is primarily obtained by spending real money (represented by Robux in Roblox).
ItemAn individual piece of in-experience content that users can earn or purchase.
Limited-time itemAn in-experience item that is in the item shop for a set period of time, after which it is unavailable
MerchandisingThe methods by which an experience attracts attention to and communicates the value of items and other content available for purchase within that experience
MonetizationThe strategies, systems and content designed to add value to a user's experience through the purchase and spend of Robux
Season PassAlso known as a Battle Pass. A programmatic method of content distribution and engagement incentive that allows users to earn in-experience rewards by interacting with the core loop or other content systems over a certain period of time.
ShopThe in-experience area, typically a separate modal, where items and other in-experience content is sold for Robux or other soft currencies.
Soft CurrencyCurrency that is unique to a specific game and is usually earned through gameplay or another action required by the experience.
Starter PackAlso known as a Starter Bundle or Beginner's Offer. An initial offer of an item or bundle of items that a new user sees within the first few minutes after joining an experience.