How to balance your Piggy Bank

The Piggy Bank is a great monetization feature. By now it’s pretty standard and I’m going to assume it requires no detailed introduction. The Piggy Bank is an IAP that provides players with hard currency. The price of the Piggy Bank is fixed – what changes is the amount of currency players get for that same price. The idea is you directly tie monetization to engagement. The more players play, the sooner they can have a good deal and monetize. The amount of currency in the Piggy Bank increases as players play. The way it works is simple: players perform some given in-game action. As they perform that action, the Piggy Bank fills in with hard currency. Players can purchase it at any time, but the more currency in the Piggy Bank the better the deal. Once the Piggy Bank has been purchased, it resets (either to 0 or a minimum). Most of the time there is a cap –the Piggy Bank cannot contain more than a given amount of currency. There are some key variants: some Piggy Banks don’t have a cap, some Piggy Banks can’t be purchased until they have filled up to a certain point, some Piggy Banks have a timer after which they will reset (in general I’ve found pressuring on that front is an ineffective and gratuitous way to frustrate players into monetizing). But overall, it’s the same general idea at play.

Based on my experience and personal preferences the format I would recommend for a Piggy Bank is:

1) Have an upper limit on the Piggy Bank. When you have a cap, the vast majority of purchases will occur when the Piggy Bank is full. That’s a controlled moment that will make it much easier for you to optimize your Piggy Bank. If the Piggy Bank is not capped, you are entering unknown territory and it will be much more difficult to balance well. If there is no upper limit to the amount of currency in the Piggy Bank, you will have to start projecting when the optimum moment to purchase the Piggy Bank is. If there is no cap, it will be a balance between the amount of gems you get from the Piggy Bank (the more the better), and the time you need to wait before purchasing it (the sooner the better). When there is a cap, things can be much more controlled – both in terms of how much you give, and in terms of how long it will take players to reach that optimum. And as a general rule – for you – you’ll be better offer trading player agency and freedom for a well-controlled balancing of your game.

Also, I’m considering here the Piggy Bank mainly as a redeposit offer (to get a customer to spend again) – rather than a conversion offer (to get a non-paying user to make his/her first IAP purchase). One thing I’ve never tried (but that actually might be worth trying) would be to have the first Piggy Bank uncapped – in order to help for conversion of less engaged players who are likely to convert later after install – and to introduce a cap for the second purchase onwards.

2) Put a minimum amount of gems (that is not 0) to ensure players can always purchase the Piggy Bank. This is more a matter of principle (because the vast majority of purchases will occur when the Piggy Bank is full) and won’t have a huge impact on monetization. But let’s say you don’t want players to be able to spend $2.99 on the Piggy Bank if it doesn’t contain at least 50 gems. You can make the Piggy Bank start at 0 and only make it purchasable once the player has filled it up to 50. Or you can simply make it start at 50 gems and purchasable from the start (and never put players in a position where they can’t buy something they want).

3) Unless you’ve AB tested it and can conclusively say it’s better to have a timer on a Piggy Bank once it’s full (if players don’t buy a full Piggy Bank within a given amount of time, it resets to the minimum) don’t do it. It’s one thing when it’s a time-limited offer that’s only available for the weekend. It’s something else to go out of your way to aggravate players for an offer that is not Live Ops contextual. As a general rule, you don’t frustrate players into spending. Someone who wants to get the Piggy Bank will get it. The vast majority of players who are going to purchase it won’t be rushed into spending because there is a timer. And the few who will most likely won’t compensate for the slow spenders who would have gotten the filled Piggy Bank later.

The first thing you need to consider when implementing and tuning a Piggy Bank in your game is how it’s going to fit into your purchase patterns. How it contributes to your revenue and interacts with other IAP bundles. There are 2 main questions that will help you determine how to balance that part of the Piggy Bank – 2 questions you can answer with data.

  • How long do you want it to take players to fill up the Piggy Bank?
  • How much do you want the Piggy Bank to cost?

The thing to keep in mind is that a Piggy Bank will be a monetization feature that will be especially important for redeposits – contrarily to offers that are specifically designed for conversion. That means you need to start looking at the actual data of your redepositing users. And in general, what you’ll see won’t vary that much from game to game. First, players who redeposit do so at a fairly regular frequency. And redeposit occur frequently between themselves. If you look at the median hours between a purchase and it’s previous one, you’ll probably see the majority of redepositing users redeposit with 24 and 48 hours of their previous purchase. And the more purchases a player has made, the more frequent the purchases.

time_since_previous_transaction

 

When looking at the cost, you’ll also probably see that the median price of a purchase is relatively stable – most players spend the same amount on their 3rd purchase and their 6th purchase. Because the price point of the first purchase often reflects the price point of your starter pack (that converts the most), looking at the median price point for the second purchase onwards will probably show some great stability. The more purchases a player makes, the higher s/he is spending. But the most purchases will occur at the lower price point, even for customers who have made multiple purchases.

purchase_price_point

The point of the Piggy Bank is to be a redeposit offer. You want to drive players who will redeposit to purchase the Piggy Bank. And to do it frequently. So that means you want to build upon and reinforce existing tendencies. Any redeposit offer should facilitate the propensity to redeposit – your plan is not to make someone who doesn’t want to spend to spend. Your plan is to make it easier to spend. You want to make it easier for your customers with the highest propensity to spend to spend again. So, the idea here doesn’t have to be to upsell (get players to spend more than they usually would) or to make your players to redeposit more quickly. It’s to accompany them in their day-to-day – and in the long-run – to make purchasing the Piggy Bank part of their new normal.

The point of the Piggy Bank is to provide an option that matches the natural tendency of your redepositing users. All that with the hope that you’ll get more players to redeposit and that they’ll continue redepositing for longer. Think about it as a form of Darwinism for offers. The offers that match players’ natural inclinations the most are the ones that will perform the best. It’s not about making something happen (in this case, redeposit). It’s about facilitating and reinforcing the existing tendency to redeposit.

So, to answer the above 2 questions:

1) How long do you want it to take players to fill up the Piggy Bank?

Most players will purchase the Piggy Bank once it’s full. The time to go from minimum to maximum should be slightly higher than the median time it takes players to redeposit. Slightly higher because if players redeposit on a standard bundle that’s good for you. And if it’s slightly more than the median time it will help entice the customers slightly slower to redeposit. Usually that’s going to be 48 hours of gameplay from minimum to maximum capacity.

2) How much do you want the Piggy Bank to cost?

You want the Piggy Bank to cost the same amount your players are always spending – if anything slightly less if you want to make it easier to purchase. The point of the Piggy Bank is not to get your players to spend more on a given transaction. It’s to get more players to spend more frequently. So, resist the urge to upsell. You can upsell once or twice. But a Piggy Bank is about redeposits in the long run. It won’t be effective long-term if you’re constantly putting your players outside of their spending comfort zone.

 

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