Guide: How to Select a Web Shop Provider for Your Game in 2024

The digital marketplace is evolving every day, so choosing the right web shop provider for your gaming business is crucial. 

You have many options available when searching for a web shop provider. The question is, how do you choose the right one for your game? You must carefully evaluate the market and its companies, understand what parameters to consider, and watch for potential pitfalls. 

We have prepared a guide to help you make your decision. Below, we examine key factors to consider and red flags to avoid in a web shop provider, such as one that offers a limited set of functionalities behind attractive pitches and promises.

Image credit: Dean Drobot, Shutterstock

Adherence to Payment Regulations

One of the essential indicators of compliance is adherence to payment card industry compliance, otherwise known as the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS). When a company is PCI DSS compliant, it means they handle and store consumer card data securely because they follow a set of regulations and security standards established by the Payment Card Industry Security Standards Council (PCI SSC) that include network security, data encryption, vulnerability management, monitoring, and more.

Regardless of their business model, it's necessary for all companies that collect, store, and transmit sensitive cardholder data to adhere to PCI DSS compliance. Neglecting the standard's requirements may lead to huge fines and severe reputation damage. 

Be careful with website notations of compliance. Some providers are not PCI DSS compliant at all. Others will display the PCI DSS badge on their website but simply use third-party PCI DSS-compliant providers, which is not the same.

All companies qualified for PCI DSS compliance pass an annual audit with certified Qualified Security Assessor obtaining two types of documents: AOC (Attestation of Compliance) and ROC (Report of Compliance). The AOC can be shared under MNDA, while the ROC includes sensitive information not typically shared externally.

To ensure a provider's specific compliance, you should request to see their Attestation of Compliance (AOC). Reputable companies with nothing to hide will happily provide the document as proof of compliance. The professional who has signed the AOC can be easily verified at this site, enabling you to ensure the authenticity of the AOC. 

Companies that prioritize their reputation, and the trust of their customers and partners, often establish partnerships with prominent acquiring banks, putting them on Visa’s approved list. It’s advisable to verify if the provider you’re considering is included in this list, as an additional means of assessment:

To facilitate your journey through the providers' compliance status, we’ve conducted reviews of several companies for your reference*:

  1. Coda Payments: not stated
  2. Stash: not stated
  3. Aghanim: yes - PCI DSS compliant badge on the website
  4. Xsolla: yes, PCI DSS compliant 
  5. Appcharge: yes - PCI DSS compliant badge on the website
  6. Paddle: PCI DSS SAQ A Compliant

*While the provided PCI DSS compliance outcomes are based on open data, we recommend you directly verify the compliance status with the provider to ensure accurate and the most up-to-date information. 

In summary, when evaluating a web shop provider, it is crucial to verify their compliance with PCI DSS standards if they handle card data internally. Alternatively, they should confirm that their external credit card data management provider is in alignment with the required regulations.

Local Tax Compliance

A web shop will be even more successful with a global audience. To reach such an audience, you must choose a web shop provider with a broad operational footprint. The ideal provider should have local operations in key markets and compliance with international and local tax regulations. 

You should also be looking for a partner who is transparent about their tax registrations in countries with open tax registries. Why is that important? You may have potential non-compliance consequences (financial and reputational and more) that could negatively affect your business.

Also, don't forget to confirm your provider is meeting other gaming industry regulations and requirements, such as protecting minors, imposing spending limits, etc. 

Diverse Payment Connections

Players and shoppers value convenience, especially when it comes to buying things online. You'll need to look for a provider that accepts a wide range of payment methods to ensure your web shop can accommodate how each player wants to pay -- no matter where in the world they want to play and pay. 

A limited number of supported payment methods can be risky for a game's successful distribution and business growth. You should always evaluate the provider's payment infrastructure to ensure it supports pay options and currencies beyond credit/debit cards and global digital wallets. Accepting things like prepaid cards, bank transfers, or mobile payments will expand your purchasing audience.

Comprehensive Expert Support

Exceptional support, for both you and your customers, is the backbone of any web shop provider. Ideally, you need a company with a proven track record of responsive and helpful support teams. 

What should you look for? Support at each stage of your operation: pre-integration, integration and testing, launch, and post-launch. For customer support, check that the provider is available on multiple channels, such as live chat, email, and phone. 

Most importantly, check that they have a solid reputation for resolving issues promptly. Be aware of providers with scarce information on their support services, which could indicate inadequate customer assistance.

Successful Projects and Launched Campaigns 

Your potential provider's track record matters. It tells you a lot about their ability to deliver results. Look closely at their portfolio, past projects, and success stories. The number and quality of successful campaigns they've launched show if they can actually deliver what they promise. They can also offer valuable support, new opportunities, and best practices to help your business grow.

Keep in mind that newcomers to the market, like Stash, might have great-looking documentation but lack real-world experience. Choosing them is a bit of a gamble. Don't be swayed by fancy words or promises. Instead, focus on results and choose a provider with a solid track record of success. 

Navigate Web Shop Features 

Check if your prospective web shop provider offers all the features you want and need in your direct-to-consumer online store. Outlined below are some of the essential features that every web shop should ideally possess. Please note that this overview is based on open data and research. To obtain the most up-to-date information, we recommend you request providers' documentation for a thorough review.

LiveOps monetization mechanics. Generate revenue directly from players through online interactions and transactions while fostering strong gamer loyalty, enhanced retention, and increased lifetime value (LTV). Some providers, such as Coda, don't support this mechanic, while other companies like Stash, Appcharge, Paddle, and Aghanim only briefly mention them.

  1. Free items for new players. Gifting items to your users increases their engagement and loyalty. Some providers, like Xsolla, allow gifting items to customers who use their web shop. Others, like Coda’s Custom Commerce, Stash, Paddle, and Appcharge don't support free items or gifting. Assessing the ability of certain providers, such as Aghanim, to support your game with the required functionality may pose challenges in terms of tracking and certainty. 
  2. Promo code sharing.  Not all providers (Coda, Aghanim, Appcharge, Paddle) can generate promotional codes that unlock digital gifts or exclusive discounts. Other providers, such as Xsolla, support this feature. Why should you care about promo codes? They're important for a variety of applications. For example, they help boost community engagement and attract users to the web shop.
  3. Amount or time limits for items and promotions. Limits on item availability increase players' interest in purchasing them by creating a sense of urgency and exclusivity. While providers like Stash and Paddle offer the capability to set time limits for items, it’s important to note that other providers such as Coda and Appcharge do not currently support this specific feature.
  4. Full-fledged reward system. A loyalty and rewards program with exclusive items will also elicit strong user engagement and retention. Loyal fans and return buyers will love getting rewarded for their repeat business. Providers offer a range of capabilities when it comes to implementing features like this. For instance, Stash focuses on loyalty programs tailored for purchase rewards, while Paddle does not support this feature. However, Codashop, Xsolla, and Appcharge are known to provide support for such functionality.
  5. Personalization. Tailoring the shopping experience to each user's preferences and behaviors makes it more relevant and enjoyable for them. The benefits are many, from enhanced UX to higher conversion rates, improved product discovery, increased user engagement, and more. Some providers like Coda, Appcharge, and Paddle don't offer anything in the way of personalization. Others, such as Xsolla, can equip you with personalization tools to meet your needs. Stash supports conditional promotions, while Aghanim uses AI automation, which can often yield standard and similar results instead of custom-tailored ones.
  6. Set up and customization. One overlooked feature is the onboarding process itself. How will your web shop provider allow you to set up your online store? Is it smooth and seamless, allowing you to easily upload items and customize your online storefront, like at Xsolla? Or does the provider offer little flexibility and convenience, setting the store up on your behalf with limited options, like Coda does?

The Use of AI Models

Think of AI as a powerful toolkit, not a miracle cure. Sure, AI models are lightning-fast, fueled by massive datasets, and expertly designed to get things done quickly. That's why providers use them for everything from fighting fraud to crunching numbers, building websites like Aghanim does, and exploring new ways to make money. If used correctly, they can help you launch faster and bring in more revenue.

But AI isn't perfect. Think of it as an extra layer you can add to your projects, not a replacement for your own judgment. Even the best AI can make mistakes, and ultimately, the decisions are still yours. 

So, don't fall for providers who promise everything will be smooth sailing thanks to AI alone. Use it wisely, and you'll see great results. But keep your human touch involved, and you'll avoid nasty surprises.

Key Takeaways

We hope this guide helped highlight critical factors when choosing a web shop provider for your game.

Key factors:

  • Payment regulations. Ensure PCI DSS compliance for secure card data handling. Verify compliance with an Attestation of Compliance (AOC).
  • Local tax compliance. Choose a provider with a broad operational footprint and compliance in key markets.
  • Diverse payment connections. Support various payment methods and currencies beyond credit/debit cards and global digital wallets.
  • Comprehensive expert support. Look for responsive and helpful support teams for both you and your customers.
  • Successful projects and launched campaigns. Choose a provider with a proven track record of success stories and established expertise.

Red flags:

  • Limited functionalities. Don't be swayed by attractive pitches that hide limited features.
  • New providers. Be cautious of newcomers who lack real-world experience and promise you the world.
  • Unsuccessful track record. Avoid providers with few or no successful launches.
  • Opaque support services. Lack of information about team and customer support indicates a potential inadequacy in those areas.
  • Over-reliance on AI. AI can be helpful, but don't expect it to be a magic solution.

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