With its Unity Buy SDK, Shopify now lets mobile games sell real goods

Mobile game developers tend to enjoy offering swag related to their games, especially if those amass any kind of decent-sized audience. The Unity Buy SDK from Shopify, announced at its Unite developer conference today, makes it easier to build a store for real stuff right inside your game, so that players can buy t-shirts, mugs, toys and emblazoned with your logo and characters as easily as they would in-app currency.

The Unity Buy SDK basically sticks a working Shopify storefront right inside a mobile game, and they can support Apple Pay for even quicker transactions on iOS. Popular mobile endless runner Alto’s Adventure is one of the first games to build in the Unity Buy SDK, and it’s a natural fit because Alto’s sells real-world goods including adorable plush llamas, which is actually something I’d find sorely tempting mid-run.

The Alto’s integration is a relatively simple use; Shopify Director of Product Brandon Chu told me that developers could easily gate access to their shops, with unlocks of various items dependent on your progress through the game. Clear a difficult level – unlock a more exclusive item. There’s nothing specifically saying game developers need only sell their own gear, too, so you could easily envision a difficult twitch platformer combining flash sales and gaming with unlockable Yeezys buyable only for the most elite.

“Imagine I see someone wearing shirt that I know they unlocked in a game, it’s like some sort of credibility,” Chu said. “And if you are a game and you don’t actually have any physical products to sell, you can actually plug in and build a sales channel that’s public, so that other merchants can actually sell through your game as well.”

Possibilities include restaurant-themed games selling home kitchen and cooking gear, or sports games selling real-world sporting equipment. It could even be an entirely new way of making revenue from mobile software development, on top of things like in-app purchases direct software sales or ad-supported revenue models.

The Unity Buy SDK is actually part of Shopify’s broader launch of its Custom Storefronts platform, which essentially exposes the tools it uses to create web-based stores and makes those available to anyone, so that they can embed stores in a number of places with a minimum of calls and resources required. It definitely opens up some new possibilities for ecommerce, and it just might mean you’re buying real candy the next time you find yourself playing Candy Crunch Saga.