Mobile payment provider Zong was the first alternative payment company to get its offering integrated into Facebook’s main Credits purchase interface. That was last August, and Facebook has since added a variety of other ways to by the virtual currency, including advertising offers provided by TrialPay, a more diverse set of credit card and banking options, its own pre-paid retail cards, and a big expansion in other ways that users can gain Credits through third parties.
Now, more than a year later, Facebook is going to add Zong rival Boku to the Credits purchase options, according to a report from All Things D. It seems obvious that Facebook would add Boku, and many other payment options, at some point. So why now?
The timing isn’t that odd, considering the overall expansion of Credits in recent months. Facebook is making the currency the only way that users can buy virtual goods on the platform. Boku and Zong have up until now been active on the platform, as payment options for developers selling their own virtual currencies in games. It’s likely that Facebook is able to strike favorable deal terms with the payment providers it is aggregating, given Facebook’s leverage through the Credits rollout.
Boku, formed out of some earlier mobile payments companies, has established itself as the main competitor to Zong. Both companies let users pay for Credits and other virtual currencies using their mobile phone accounts, and both have worked hard to establish relationships with carriers around the world, even as more mainstream payment options continue to be the most popular with users, according to a recent survey we did for our Inside Facebook Gold analysis service.
Those relationships are time-consuming to build, but they can be just as important as the mobile payments technology underpinning the startups’ systems. Carriers who are comfortable with one of these mobile payment companies will sometimes agree to reduce their otherwise-high transaction fees, for example.
More intriguingly, a recent article from TechCrunch said that Apple and Google have both been talking to Boku about an acquisition or significant partnership. Perhaps the interest of those two rivals spurred Facebook to get Boku on the platform? Boku’s goal as an independent company is to become as widely accessible to users as possible, and up until this point it has watched Zong get promoted over it by Facebook, even as Facebook has made Credits the only way for users to buy virtual currency on the platform. Now that it appears to be on board, perhaps it will be more inspired to stay independent?