Snapchat is testing out a new way for its augmented reality lens creators to make money from their creations. The company is experimenting with a new feature that will allow creators to sell paid upgrades to lenses with Snapchat’s in-app currency .
Creators have flexibility in terms of the “digital goods” they can build into their existing lens. It could be a new effect within the lens, new editing tools or some other kind of “power up” that enhances the effect, according to Snap’s Sophia Dominguez, who leads the company’s AR partnerships with creators.
For its initial rollout, Snap has opted to work with creators behind some of the app’s most popular effects, like the “potato lens” (pictured in the top image). With the unlockable upgrades, fans will now be able to use tokens to change up the effect with different features like a magic wand or a police officer costume. For now, only a handful of creators have access to the feature, which will only be available in Australia and New Zealand to start.
Snapchat’s augmented reality effects have long been one of the biggest draws of the app, which has benefitted from numerous viral lenses over the years. But until now, users have been able to access all of these effects for free. And augmented reality creators hoping to monetize their work have primarily relied on partnerships with brands, which hire them to create custom lenses.
Dominguez says upgradable lenses could be an important way for more AR creators to make a living from their work. It could also prove lucrative for Snap, which has increasingly been experimenting with non-advertising sources of revenue. The company for now isn’t disclosing details about its arrangements with creators on sales of within lenses, but the company already makes money from Snap Tokens, which can also be used for game upgrades or to tip creators in the app.
Of course, all this depends on Snapchat users being willing to spend money to get exclusive new augmented reality effects, which is far from a given. “We actually have no idea how this is going to go,” Dominguez tells Engadget. “We can't guarantee anything, but we really do hope that because this is largely coming from our AR developers and this is also revenue that goes to them, their subscribers will support them.”