2309, 2020

Is Google Killing In-App Purchases?

For the past two years, I have exclusively relied on Google’s “In-App Purchase” library to monetize Boxel Rebound. This service provided a way for me to sell a digital license without having to worry about payment gateways like PayPal, or handling refunds to unhappy customers. It was a dream come true!

As mentioned in my previous blog post, Google quietly announced that they were locking up this feature for new extensions. I figured it was temporary since their staff was working from home during the COVID-19 pandemic. Well folks, it’s not temporaryGoogle is shutting down their In-App Purchase service.

How will I monetize this now? I probably won’t. I did the math, and I’ve made a little less than $1,000 in sales within a 12 month window. For all the 12-year-olds playing Boxel Rebound during class, that probably sounds astronomical. But for a web developer making a game as a hobby, it’s an easy choice to switch to a freemium service to promote other projects.

I have joyfully come to the realization that monetizing a game on the Chrome Webstore is doable, but not worthwhile. The Chrome Webstore allowed me to distribute a game to a wider audience than I could have ever reached, but it came at the expense of a demographic that expected free games.

Thankfully, I discovered something that free users are willing to pay with: their personal data (queue the spooky sci-fi music). In late 2019, I gave free users the option to earn a “skin” (an in-game player cosmetic) if they followed Kargoh (aka, my brother Isaiah) on the Twitch platform. I then used the Twitch API to confirm their following status, and awarded users a free skin. Within 6 months, we bumped his followers from 120, to 20,000. During this time, we invested all our time into 5-day streams, and were blessed with hundreds of paying subscribers.

When school started back up around August 2020, streaming at 8am no longer reached the average 75+ active viewers, so we allocated time to YouTube as a way to create on-demand content. In a similar fashion, we offered a new free skin to promote his YouTube channel. Within 4-weeks, we jumped from 200 subscribers to 10,000 subscribers.

That’s great and all, but are people actually watching his channel? Yup! Prior to advertising his YouTube channel, we were seeing about 50 “watch hours” per week. In the 4-week window, we are now seeing 500+ watch hours per week, and are about to reach the 4,000 watch hour requirement. The more people that watch his channel, the closer we get to earning money through YouTubes partnership program.

In short, I plan on using this bad news from Google to my advantage by exclusively promoting the Kargoh brand (owned by Doppler Creative – aka, me and my bros). This gives me an excuse to keep making fun levels for Boxel 3D and other future games.

2108, 2020

New Direction Cube

I’ve been working on a cube type that captures the original Boxel platform feeling perfectly. I call it the “direction cube” because it sets the player movement direction. This is different from the gravity cube because it applies a force similar to holding the left or right direction key.

1908, 2020

Google Store Predicament

Boxel 3D v0.3.0 introduces a new feature called “Chrome Storage”, which allows users to save their data to their Google account rather than their “Boxel 3D” account. As mentioned in the previous blog entry, the cost of time & money is encouraging me to relocate hosting to Google’s free services.

To help offset these costs, I decided to place a the following features behind a paywall:

  • Save Data (Scores, Levels, etc.)
  • Unlock 24+ Player Skins
  • Unlimited Custom Levels

This is a similar model to Boxel Rebound’s “Pro” features, and seems to be the most effective way to fund the game. Free users still get to play all levels for free.

After switching everything to Chrome, I discovered that Google “temporarily” disabled the creation of IAP’s (In App Purchases), which completely ruined my plan to monetize the game.

What is next? In version 0.3.0, everyone will be given a “tester” license, which unlocks all features mentioned above. If Google ever lets me create IAPs, I will activate the premium features, and anybody can backup their data, and upgrade to Pro at any time.

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