Setting Bejeweled Blitz free: Lessons learned moving from premium to freemium on iOS


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Bejeweled Blitz has been one of the first games to be fully integrated between Facebook and iOS and one of the most successful. In December 2011, PopCap launched a freemium version of Bejeweled Blitz on iOS (iPhone / iPad): previously, the game was available only on iPhone as a game mode inside Bejeweled 2, a premium product. This session will cover the decision process that led PopCap to launch the product as a freemium offering and the launch process itself, and highlight the most important lessons learned from it. The session will also focus on the most important aspects of launching and operating a cross-platform social product (mobile and Facebook).

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Setting Bejeweled Blitz free: Lessons learned moving from premium to freemium on iOS

  1. 1. Setting Bejeweled Blitz free Lessons learned moving from premium to freemium on iOS Giordano Bruno Contestabile, PopCap Games March 5th, 2011 Twitter: @giordanobc
  2. 2. My job: managing the business… …even though I suck at it!  My excuse: half of those people work at PopCap • But so do I • Oh dear! • I suck!
  3. 3. Some quick facts  Launched in late 2000  History: Bejeweled, Bejeweled 2, Bejeweled Twist, Bejeweled Blitz, Bejeweled 3  Key platforms: PC/Mac, Facebook, iPhone, XBox360, DS  Units: > 55 million  Installs: > 200 million  MAUs: > 25 million  Users: 500 million+
  4. 4. One Very Long Minute History of Bejeweled Blitz on Facebook & iOS  Bejeweled 2 iOS Client launched 2 days after iTunes app store opened (Summer 2008)  Bejeweled Blitz on Facebook launched in November 2009  Blitz mode and FB Connect added to Bejeweled 2 iOS client (April 2010)  Major Feature Launches: Rare Gems; Daily Spin; Keystones Tutorial  One of the first games to be fully integrated FB and iOS  2+ years from launch, still consistently popular: • Facebook: top 10 games by DAU (3M+) • iPhone: top 10 top grossing games
  5. 5. Doubling Down on Bejeweled
  6. 6. Why Change?  From mode in a paid game to freemium game • Reach much wider audience • Update more nimbly; follow Facebook closely  A new iteration of a great premium game • Feature set and game rules from Bejeweled 3 • Lose the version number: an evergreen product that continues to evolve over time
  7. 7. The Great Maneuvers Launch Timeline  Soft launch of Bejeweled Blitz in Canada iTunes app store (12/1)  Worldwide launch of Bejeweled and Bejeweled Blitz (12/8)  Retirement of Bejeweled 2 + Blitz (12/8) Products One of few titles with Premium and Freemium business model  Bejeweled Blitz (Freemium)  Bejeweled (Premium $0.99 download) Launch Goals  Top 10 Premium Title  Top 10 Freemium Title  Rating of 4.5 stars or more  6M Freemium downloads in 1 month Downloads Highest App Store Rankings Current App Store Rating Bejeweled Blitz Well over 10M 2nd Free / 3rd Grossing ½ Bejeweled Premium Well over 1M 1st Paid  Retiring one game, launching two new ones
  8. 8. Changeinmetricsfrompremiumtofreemium Key Metrics Change Downloads Daily Average Downloads 9X Daily Active Users Weekly Average 5X Revenue Daily Average 5X Did It Work? … and stillgrowing (every week hasbeen bigger than previous one)
  9. 9. Comparing iOS to Facebook Key Metrics iOS (FB = 100) Daily Active Users Weekly Average 33% ARPU DARPU 196% Engagement Games played / day 208% (52!) Retention 7-day retention 200% Monetization % of paying users 205%
  10. 10. Learnings – behavior iOS vs FB  On most metrics, iOS users are 2x higher than Facebook users  Contributing factors: • “Always on, always with me” nature of mobile • Bejeweled Blitz strongly suited to bite-sized gaming • Efficient Apple ecosystem, in particular for billing  We see significant FB / iOS cross-over in user base • New FB users discovering the game through iOS first
  11. 11. The Power of Free
  12. 12. Premium Vs. Freemium: Downloads Freemium client has 9x as many downloads per day vs. premium Bejeweled Blitz Bejeweled
  13. 13. Many Play For Free…  As expected, ARPPU declined when switching from paid to free • Higher percentage of free players  ARPPU still higher, but closer, to Facebook
  14. 14. …But Enough of Them Pay!  Increased user base driving much higher revenues
  15. 15. Facebook Connect: A High Barrier Approximately 20% of Blitz iOS downloads have activated Facebook Connect, unlocking full game content  FB Connect required to unlock full features  Ongoing campaigns to incentivize users to connect
  16. 16. Facebook Connect: A High Barrier  Benefits of full integration FB / iOS: • Opportunity to leverage the same social graph • Cross-promotion and higher awareness • Big part of what makes the game fun  Drawbacks: • Only 20% of iOS users connect with Facebook • Extremely complex to maintain and operate  Conclusions: • Worth it if it improves the game • Try to make FB Connect optional on mobile
  17. 17. Reacting to feedback
  18. 18. AppStoreRatings&CustomerFeedback Initial Rating ½ Action Taken Results ½ • Game speed was intentionally slowed to match that of Facebook app • Initial app store ratings were impacted by customer complaints about speed • Rating reached a low of 2 ½ stars • Directly responded to customer comments with the message: “we are listening to you and making changes” • Stopped requiring players on old Bej2+Blitz app to transition to new app • Able to resubmit and launch new version with faster speed within three days
  19. 19. ResultsofCustomerResponse  Ratings of new version significantly higher, and buoyed overall rating of app  Stabilized App Store ranking  Additional updates planned to address remaining and ongoing feedback Updated app (with faster speed & iPad support) releasedSource: Distimo Monitor Source: Distimo Monitor
  20. 20. Lessons Learned  Don’t mess with everyone’s favorite game!  Listen to feedback and address it • Make sure the team is ready!  Make sure that updating the game is easy • Anything that can be server-side, should be!
  21. 21. Lessons Learned  Be proactive • Happy users are less likely to rate your app • A “rate our game” interstitial works well • Don’t try to force them • Be honest in your messaging (“if you like us...”)
  22. 22. Business Model
  23. 23. Boosts  Low-priced in-game effects meant to be used regularly  Balanced not to grant excessive advantages • The better player will still score higher on average
  24. 24. Rare Gems  Higher-impact bonuses  Can be activated every few games, appearing randomly  Require skill to be fully taken advantage of  Entertainment value as important as effect
  25. 25. Daily Spins  Slot machine mechanic granting in-game currency  1 free “daily spin” every day  Additional “daily spin” can be purchased
  26. 26. Key tenets  “Play forever”: no pay walls or limitations for non-paying users  Game is fun and balanced also without paying  Pay to have fun, not because the games forces or punishes you  Server-side code to tweak economy in real time  Events really important: busy marketing calendar
  27. 27. Our secret? Science! mF =↑eng + ↑ret + ↑mon …that I just made up! More fun = more engagement, retention and monetization A simple equation… If players are having fun they will play, stay and pay
  28. 28. Marketing Efforts
  29. 29. Marketing Mix Ads on Bejeweled Blitz Facebook “Free App Of The Day” programsMobile Ads “Apple Love”
  30. 30. Result analysis  Vast majority of downloads from: • “Apple love” • Chart position • Organic searches • Existing Blitz players  Free app programs didn’t drive significant installs  Encouraging conversion from paid advertising • Very high CPI in December ($0.50 / $1)  Organic growth more valuable than paid growth  Sustained efforts more effective than “burst” actions
  31. 31. What’s Next?
  32. 32. Next Steps for Bejeweled on Mobile Bejeweled Premium • Updates every 2-3 months with additional game modes and content • iPad Bejeweled Blitz (Freemium) • Monthly updates • Add new features close to FB updates • Continue to address customer feedback • Encourage and incent players to unlock full features by activating FB Connect • Android
  33. 33. The Challenge of Android 5 (key resolutions) 4 (2.2, 2.3, 3, 4) 100+ 25% 250M 10+ Fragmented Open (?) Screen resolutions Supported OS versions Phone models ARPU as % of iOS Active user base* Distribution Channels Ecosystem Platform *Estimated 3 2 (iOS 4, iOS 5) 10 100% 250M 1 Integrated Closed
  34. 34. A Billion New Players! ★ iOS ★ Android ★ Gree ★ DeNA ★ … ★ Facebook ★ Google+ ★ QQ ★ Vkontakte ★ …
  35. 35. Thanks! Questions? @giordanobc