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In-app purchase is rapidly becoming the leading way to grow app revenue. Now, you can add it to apps and games that run on Windows Phone 8.
Today I want to share key ideas to consider when using in-app purchase in your app, and describe at a high level how to add in-app purchase to your code, based on my experience of adding in-app purchase to some of my apps.
What is in-app purchase?
In-app purchase gives your app the capability to sell digital content and digital services inside your Windows Phone app. Windows Phone 8 offers a consistent purchase experience on the phone and safe handling of personal information, both of which contribute to a confident purchase experience for the user. As an app developer, in-app purchase gives you a familiar API, reliable payout, in-app product management tools, and geo-distributed services. These all add up to providing you with meaningful commerce from within an app.
Not only does in-app purchase increase the possibility that your apps will make more money, in-app purchase also will save time: by using in-app purchase I can simply unlock some functionality in apps based on customer in-app purchase, and then no longer maintain two versions of every app—a free/lite version and a paid version.
Also, by moving to a pure free model, I expect more people to use my games. I still have the option to monetize enhanced or premium content and features within the app using in-app purchase.
You can use in-app purchase for digital content and digital services. The Windows Phone 8 in-app purchase API gives you access to two types of digital transactions:
Consumables: The app user can buy the item as many times as they want. This might be game currency, movie rental, access to digital magazines for six months, for example, or cloud storage for a month.
Durables: Buy once and own forever. These might be new game levels, country maps, or game items.
Key features of in-app purchase on the Windows Phone platform
Windows Phone in-app purchase delivers a comprehensive commerce platform that includes the following important benefits for developers and consumers:
How to integrate in-app purchase in your app
I’ve found that adding in-app purchase to an app is fairly straightforward, and can be done in less than an hour. What takes more time is defining what is offered through in-app purchase in your app, and then modifying the code to support those enhancements.
There are four steps I follow to add in-app purchase:
When the app is in production, the Dev Center will show the purchase history data of in-app items that are being sold. It is very useful to see which in-app items are most popular!
As a developer, you can add in-app purchase to a Windows Phone 8 app, as well as to Windows Phone 7 code that runs on a Windows Phone 8 device. For Windows Phone 7 code, you must include error handling to detect when the app is running on a Windows Phone 7 device, and not show the in-app purchase experience (it will not be available in the phone).
In summary, I modify my app, and then I use the Microsoft in-app infrastructure to deliver the in-app purchase experience to my customers:
How do I add in-app purchase to my code?
Let’s say you will be adding only one in-app product in Dev Center, with the tag name ‘morehints’. You will need to do the following:
You can do much more with in-app purchase, for example, you can get a listing of all the in-app products available, validate if an in-app product is durable or consumable, or validate authenticity of a purchase through the proof-of-purchase receipt.
What is the user experience for in-app purchase?
Developers need to present the list of items that are available for sale in their app.
In my app, for example, after the player chooses to buy more hints, the phone shows the different options available to the user: from ‘packs’ of 10 hints, up to ‘unlimited hints’.
If the player chooses to buy one of these ‘hint packs’, the phone shows a ‘buy screen’ similar to the one used to purchase apps, from which the player can choose the payment instrument to use or add a new one, and then either buy or cancel the purchase. The player can use any payment method available in their market, and they can protect the Wallet with a PIN. For example, my kids can play the game, but can’t purchase items through in-app purchase without my permission, because they don’t have access to the PIN.
When this purchase process finishes, the game returns to the screen that has the ‘get more hints’ button, and adds hints to my ‘bag of hints available’ depending on the success of the purchase.
Creative ways to add in-app purchase to your app
Are you are thinking of adding in-app purchase to your app and game? Here are some in-app purchase ideas:
In-app purchase opens up additional monetization opportunities for both new and existing apps. Determine whether this is a useful capability for your app, and carefully balance the value that is included in the app, versus the value and price of each in-app purchase item. The opportunity is significant – some estimates point to over $1 billion dollars being transacted through in-app purchase in 2011.
To determine if this capability makes sense for your apps, you’ll want to check out these materials:
I’d like to hear how you’ve added in-app purchase capabilities to your app.
How to test in app purchase before my application to be live on store ,how to test the scenario after user press buy product ?
Hi Bernardo, thanks for sharing.
Does Microsoft's IAP support "recurring charge" whereby the store charges the user $x.xx every month until it is canceled by the user?
I sell monthly subscription to a service & Apple/Google's stores do have "monthly recurring charge" option. I can't find similar capability in Microsoft's offering.
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