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How to Start an Online Video Game Store?

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Alexander Safonov
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Video games are one of the largest and fastest growing industries in the world economy, with combined income long exceeding that of the music and film industries. At the same time, as the experience of many startups shows, this industry is far from saturation. There is still plenty of room for new projects, including marketplaces. Therefore, in this article we will tell you in detail how to create an online video game store like Steam, what you need for this, what nuances you need to take into account and how much such development costs approximately.

Step 1: choose a platform and niche

How to Start an Online Video Game Store?Global video game market size by segment. Source

As with common e-commerce startups, when developing your own online video game store, the first thing you need to do is decide what and to whom you will sell. In the case of a video game store, this decision comes down to the choice of the gaming platform - the type of device on which people will play games. Such platforms can be large and portable consoles, computers, smartphones, tablets, browsers. VR devices are also gaining popularity recently, but this is happening rather slowly.

It would be wrong to choose games by direction - shooter, arcade, role-play, simulator, strategy, tactics or MMOG, since games can be downloaded from the marketplace built directly into the game console. There is simply no reason for players to look elsewhere for the game - it's harder, longer and often more expensive. Therefore, you need to lure people to your site in a different way.

For example, mobile video games are downloaded from the App Store and Google Play in almost 100% of cases, while console games are downloaded from the Playstation Store and Xbox Store. There is a small variety only on the computer games market, but the Steam marketplace dominates here, with a share of about 70%. The rest of the market is divided between the stores of major distributors and developers (Electronic Arts, Ubisoft and others).

Besides choosing a gaming platform, you also need to decide:

  • Will you sell digital and / or physical copies? Implementation of digital distributions is easier from a technical point of view, but more difficult from a marketing point of view: you need to somehow get people to buy games not in the store built into the game console, but on your online platform. And the solution with discounts is not applicable here (this will be discussed below in the text).
  • If you sell physical copies, will it be new or used video games? The last option seems more tempting, since here you can make discounts by reducing your profits. However, this market is rapidly decreasing due to the fact that people are buying less and less games on physical media, preferring to download them directly to the console.
  • Which country (region) are you targeting? This will affect the interface language, business registration and customer preferences. The latter is very important as players in different regions prefer different games and platforms. For example, in the US, both Playstation and Xbox are in demand, while shooters, arcades, sports simulations and MMOGs are popular. In Japan and other East Asian countries, most people play Playstation and love shooters, MMOGs and JRPGs. In Eastern Europe, people prefer computer games, in terms of games - MMOGs, shooters and old-school RPGs.

Step 2: create a unique value proposition

How to Start an Online Video Game Store?Number of players by region for 2020. Source

Few of the ordinary players know, but when video game developers or distributors list their game on Steam, they commit to selling it on that site at the lowest price. For example, if they sell a game on Steam for $ 50, then that game should be at least $ 50 in other stores. If the game out of Steam is sold for less than $ 50, then it will be removed from the Steam listing (+ a penalty may be paid to the marketplace for a breach of contract). And this is a common practice in this market, because you are unlikely to be able to sell video games in your online store lower than on other sites.

Therefore, in order to attract buyers to your online video game store, you need something else - a unique value proposition. The easiest option is to become the exclusive video game provider in your country or region. This practice exists in the MMOG and network games market, where you need not just sell discs, but create a network of servers for games in your region.

Another option is to offer players games with enhanced content. This is also a traditional practice: the player buys not just a game, but also several mods to it, which add bonus levels, items, locations, etc. You can create such mods yourself or outsource a game development company. In addition, the mods can be developed by the players themselves, and you will choose among the best and finance their finishing off.

Another option is to attract buyers with unique content. For example, you can review games and leave a button to buy them. You can also create news content, keep a blog on YouTube. You can also sell not only games, but also related merchandise: figurines, clothes, stickers, etc. A more difficult option is to make your own collectible editions of video games for their exclusive sale only in your online store.

Step 3: decide on the video game store functionality

How to Start an Online Video Game Store?What functions do online shoppers need the most. Source

User panel. Responsible for the interaction of your online video game store with the end customer. Using the functionality of this interface, users will search for games and buy them on your platform.

Here are the things to add to the user panel of an online video game store:

  • Registration, login. User account creation and login can be done via email or social media accounts if it is a website, via email, phone number and accounts in the App Store and Google Play if your online store is focused on smartphones.
  • Profile customization. Includes the ability to specify an account name (login), add an avatar, enter user data, specify the categories of video games of interest, available payment methods and delivery options.
  • Search engine. Allows you to quickly and easily find the game of interest using keywords and filters: platform, genre, year, price, developer, system requirements, interface language and voice acting, promotions, discounts, bonuses.
  • Product (game) card. Usually they rely on a clean interface, information content and high-quality photos, but in the case of video games, this is not enough. Players need to see the gameplay live, so the game card must contain up-to-date high quality gameplay video (1080p+).
  • Listing of video games. The appearance of the list of video games in online stores is standard: a title with the name of the game, a screenshot or logo of the game, price, release date and rating. You can also add the ability to start a video preview when you hover the cursor over the game card, as in a YouTube video listing.
  • Ratings and reviews. Whatever you create an online store, this is a must-have feature as it helps shoppers make smarter choices. In the video game market, this is especially important, as the game in trailers can seem amazing, but it can contain a lot of bugs, slow down and be poorly voiced or not match the rating.
  • Chat, comments. Chat is not a required feature for an online store, but it can be useful if you allow other vendors to sell games on your site. Comments, on the contrary, are required, as they provide an opportunity to express your opinion about the game, to ask something from those who have already bought the game or the administration.
  • Payment system. Integration with payment gateways will allow you to automate the process of paying for a purchase, rather than manually accepting user money. The choice of a payment gateway should be made based on the most popular payment methods among your target audience.
  • Recommendations. These can be recommendations on the home page, in the search results, in the listing of the game, or under the product card. If games are included in the recommended ones, you can make a paid function and / or use AI.
  • Favorites. Buyers should be able to tag video games they would like to buy in the future. When implementing this function, you need to add the ability to make the list of favorites public.
  • Pre-order. This is a separate category that allows you to place an order for a game that has not yet been released. Such an order can be in the form of a whitelist, when the buyer is simply enrolled in a queue for the right to be among the first to receive the game after the release. Or it could be a pre-order with payment.
  • Customer support. Communication with the site administration via internal chat, email, phones, instant messengers or social networks.
  • Help.  Instructions and FAQ, which will give answers to frequently asked questions and help you solve frequently encountered problems on your own.
Admin panel. This interface will allow your employees to monitor the status of the platform and solve problems that have arisen. Requires the implementation of the following functions:
  • Login to the system. Regular staff do not have the ability to register new admin users. They can only authenticate and perform their assigned tasks. Administrator accounts are usually added by the site owner - the main administrator.
  • Dashboard. A dashboard for tracking the status of the platform: traffic, sales volume, number of buyers, planned actions, availability of requests from user-buyers, presence of a problem, etc.
  • User management. Tracks the accounts of all users, can freeze and block them, as well as edit their data.
  • Payment system management. Allows you to customize monetization parameters (commissions, fees, listing fees, etc.), add and remove payment methods, solve financial problems, etc.
  • Listing management. Allows you to add new games to the listing of products, add and change their descriptions, and delete games.
  • Content management. Allows you to add, edit and delete content on the site: texts, videos, images, animation, etc.
  • Integration with third-party services. We are talking about cloud storage, social networks, CRM, delivery services, etc.
  • Reports and analytics.

Step 4: choose a technology stack and API for development

How to Start an Online Video Game Store? How to Start an Online Video Game Store?

Step 5: start developing your online store

When launching your online video game store, you must understand that you will have to compete almost directly with the market leaders, since video games are the same everywhere and cost the same. To succeed in this confrontation, you need a platform with a unique, personalized design, quality code and high security. A project of this level can be implemented only with the help of custom development, which is better to entrust to a full-cycle development company. How to find such a technical partner and what to look for when choosing one, we have described in the article: «How to choose a developer company».

When you choose a partner, you will go through the next development cycle with him:

  1. Signing a contract. First, you, as a customer and a development company as a performer create a technical description of the project, agree on the development time and cost, as well as performance indicators. When all this is agreed, you draw up a contract and sign it.
  2. Prototyping the application. In the second stage of development, the interface designer analyzes user flows and creates a wireframe for your online store. After that the frame is sent to the customer for approval.
  3. Creating interface design. At the third stage, a UI designer comes into play, who, based on the wireframe and analysis of the target audience, creates a layout for the site and / or application of the store. A layout is a static vision of the design as it will be presented to customers. If the customer likes the layout, then a prototype is created on its basis - an animated simulation of the user interface design, where all buttons, icons, videos and transitions work, but functions do not work.
  4. Direct encoding. When the store design is created, it is implemented in the program code. This is done by front-end, back-end and mobile developers. Video game developers can also participate if you need to integrate an online store with a video game backend.
  5. Testing the online store. When the code is written, it is checked for errors and bugs, the ability to work under all possible load scenarios. Testing is done by QA engineers (and game testers, if you need to test the integration of the store with the server side of the games).
  6. Deployment. When everything is tested and working, the store is added to various listings, directories and social networks. If the online video game store you launched is focused on mobile platforms, then it is also added to the listings of Google Play and App Store marketplaces.
  7. Support. In parallel with the inclusion of the store in the listings, a support service is launched, which will collect feedback from buyers and solve the problems that have arisen.

Step 6: launch your marketing campaign

How to Start an Online Video Game Store?

The cost of creating an online store

How to Start an Online Video Game Store?

How to Start an Online Video Game Store? key takeaways:
  1. Step 1: choose a platform and niche
  2. Step 2: create a unique value proposition
  3. Step 3: decide on the video game store functionality
  4. Step 4: choose a technology stack and API for development
  5. Step 5: start developing your online store
  6. Step 6: launch your marketing campaign
  7. The cost of creating an online store
Merehead does professional development of Video game store. If you have questions, contact us for a free consultation.

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