From the launch of Pong and Pacman to Minecraft, the gaming experience now feels more authentic, includes real-time player interaction and increasingly personalized interfaces. Not only have these changes made gaming more engaging, but they have also created a host of new opportunities for both gamers and game publishers.
Successful game publishers keep players absorbed in their world and minimize frictions which detract from the experience. However, a significant challenge persists: there is a lack of interoperability between games, even for those made by the same publisher. Persistent digital goods, from reputation, to identity, to real monetary value, do not easily follow a gamer when switching from one game to another. We believe the macro financial technology trend of embedded finance could provide an answer.
As a gamer, it can be frustrating to invest significant time and money into a game, only to lose all your progress and achievements when moving on to a new game. The heart of the problem lies in the isolated nature of games. Each game operates within its own silo, with little to no recognition of a player's accomplishments in other games.
One potential solution to this issue lies in creating a player wallet through embedded payments. At the heart of an embedded payments ecosystem is a subledger, also known as a wallet, that can serve as a central hub for anything related to a player: gaming credentials, in-game currency balances and transactions and spending history. When logging into a new game, the platform could share this information, enabling the new game to offer unique rewards, such as exclusive skins or titles, in recognition of the player's past achievements. This adds a layer of continuity across games, enhancing the overall gaming experience and user engagement.
Additionally, this could also provide a unified experience between different games owned by the same publisher. As the walls between games are broken down the gamer base can grow. This is especially true for the “whales” in video gaming – i.e., the top spenders in each game, which represents 50-70% of mobile game in-app purchase revenue2. By creating a persistent financial identity through in-game transaction history these star players can receive publisher recognition, thus be more likely to invest their time in different games. Showering super fans and influencers with digital recognition during the launching period may boost attention and popularity for a new title. This could boost popularity during the launching period as they are typically an influencer too.
Players are more likely to engage in transactions when the process is smooth, fast, and integrated directly into their journey. In fact, revenue from in-app purchases is set to grow to $231 billion by 2023, $254 billion by 2024, $271 billion by 2025, and $285 billion by 20261. Payment options need to cater to transactions in gaming which are impromptu and small-scale. In addition to Apple Pay and Google Pay, game publishers can also consider other options such as real-time payments, peer-to-peer exchanges, virtual wallets, other local Methods of Payment (also known as MOPs), etc. which could offer cheaper payments options. In addition to increasing transactions, this can support growth and market expansion by using data on gaming habits and spending patterns to tailor their games, enhancing player retention and driving revenue growth.
The potential of an embedded payments solution extends beyond games. This can be extended to an in-game virtual marketplace that supports both B2C and C2C transactions – and could also play a pivotal role in other areas of the gaming ecosystem, such as streaming and esports.
One example of how an embedded payments platform could be used is to serve as a central utility for in-app recommendations, suggesting channels or events based on users' gaming history and preferences as recorded in their user wallet. Moreover, this central repository of information would allow the facilitation of direct payments for a variety of game-related purposes: receiving payments as a content creator, in-game spending as a gamer, or sending tips to one’s favorite streamer.
Like other industries, the video gaming industry is not immune to fraud and cybersecurity events. When embedding a financial service into an application, it is important to take into consideration risks such as money laundering, unauthorized transactions, chargebacks, security breaches, etc. Depending on the nature of the transactions, licensing requirements may come into play as handling money on behalf of another party requires compliance with regulations that differ from region to region. Seeking outside counsel on any and all licensing requirements, and then establishing robust risk and control frameworks to prevent fraud and financial crimes are a requirement to ensure a scalable and safe platform.
We are starting to see financial services embedded into industries and products that were not historically financial in nature, and we believe video game ecosystems are ripe for this, starting with payments. Because video games have global audiences with a high degree of engagement they develop social constructs analogous to the physical world: reputation, status, and digital value. Embedded payments are a logical progression in scaling this analogy.
Gamers are more likely to engage in these transactions when the process is smooth, fast, and integrated directly into their gaming experience; the embedded finance phenomenon presents massive opportunities for game publishers. By embedding a wallet into their games that can serve as a persistent repository of financial information publishers gain access to valuable data that persists with the gamer, allowing them to target and delight their biggest fans in new ways. By using this data publishers can tailor their games to meet their players' needs, thereby enhancing retention and driving revenue growth.
Embedded financial services can also create new revenue streams for game publishers. Commonly used tools by other embedding financial services into their platform are:
In conclusion, the evolution of the gaming industry offers a unique opportunity to leverage embedded payments as a solution to long-standing challenges. By creating a unified platform that recognizes and rewards players' gaming achievements across different titles, we can create an immersive gaming experience and bring added value to both gamers and publishers. As the industry continues to grow and evolve, the integration of seamless, embedded financial systems will be a crucial element of its success.
The statements herein are confidential and proprietary and not intended to be legally binding. Not all products and services are available in all geographical areas; Industry solutions may be under development and/or future state. Visit jpmorgan.com/disclosures/payments for further disclosures and disclaimers related to this content.