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Facebook Evolves its Virtual Currency Platform

February 26, 2011

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Facebook has announced several changes to its virtual currency system, Facebook Credits. The deadline for the obligatory adoption of Credits has been declared as July 1, 2011, making it compulsory for game operators enable the payment platform for all in-app purchases made by users, and exclusively so. In tandem with this, an incentive program has been detailed, that offers benefits to those operators that make Credits the de facto in-game currency. Such perks include increased prominence within the games dashboard, and other opportunities for preferential promotion from the owner of the social network.

Facebook also unveiled two new features of its Credits platform. 'Frictionless Credits' will allow users to make purchases without having to navigate away from the game canvas to a separate payment page, while 'Buy With Friends' allows purchase virtual currency in parallel, with the incentive of a discount.

Facebook Credits have been gradually integrated into the social network's app ecosystem over the course of the past year, typically requiring a 30% revenue share. This extent of share is greater than is usually experienced by game operators that employ third-party payment solutions, which is, on average, around 10-15%. Thus, there is some apprehension surrounding the enforced adoption of Credits, which will put extra pressure on the revenues that publishers have been operating with on the network for the past three years. This moment was not unexpected, however, and has long been a question of 'when' rather than 'if'. Nonetheless, in tandem with rising costs of user acquisition on the platform, the prospective return of investment, especially for smaller operators, will become further restrained.

Frictionless Credits expand one of the benefits of a platform-wide currency, namely that of increased conversion rates thanks to superior trust in the brand, plus a greater mobility for the virtual currency that users buy (this has proven to be true for several operators that have adopted Credits, but it is unknown whether this increase in monetisation offsets the increased revenue share issued to Facebook). Making the act of buying virtual currency into an even sleeker procedure should further lower friction, as there will be fewer interim hurdles involved when a player wishes to become a paying customer. While this is an efficiency that could be implemented by third-party payment solutions, having it realised in a standardised fashion will make it an upside that can be shared by all game apps on the network. Buy With Friends, too, is a strategy that is best executed by the platform holder, allowing it to become fully-integrated on a site-wide basis, further incentivising players while also becoming a consistent, embedded aspect of their experience.

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