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Setting Bejeweled Blitz free

Lessons learned moving from premium to freemium on iOS Giordano Bruno Contestabile, PopCap Games March 5th, 2011 Twitter: @giordanobc

My job: managing the …even though I suck at it!


 My excuse: half of those people work at PopCap

• But so do I • Oh dear!

• I suck!

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+

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

Doubling Down on Bejeweled

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

The Great Maneuvers
Retiring one game, launching two new ones
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) One of few titles with Premium and Freemium business model  Bejeweled Blitz (Freemium)  Bejeweled (Premium $0.99 download) Products

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 2nd Free / 3rd Grossing 1st Paid Current App Store Rating ½ 

Bejeweled Blitz Bejeweled Premium

Well over 10M Well over 1M

Change in metrics from premium to freemium
Key Metrics Change

Did It Work?

Downloads Daily Active Users Revenue

Daily Average Downloads Weekly Average Daily Average

9X 5X 5X

… and still growing (every week has been bigger than previous one)

Comparing iOS to Facebook
Key Metrics iOS (FB = 100)

Daily Active Users ARPU Engagement Retention Monetization

Weekly Average DARPU Games played / day 7-day retention % of paying users

33% 196% 208% (52!) 200% 205%

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

The Power of Free

Premium Vs. Freemium: Downloads

Bejeweled Blitz

Freemium client has 9x as many downloads per day vs. premium

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

…But Enough of Them Pay!

 Increased user base driving much higher revenues

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

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

Reacting to feedback

App Store Ratings & Customer Feedback
Initial Rating ½
• Game speed was intentionally slowed to match that of Facebook app •

Action Taken
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

Results ½

Initial app store ratings were impacted by customer complaints about speed
Rating reached a low of 2 ½ stars

Results of Customer Response
 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

Source: Distimo Monitor

Updated app (with faster speed & iPad support) released

Source: Distimo Monitor

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!

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...”)

Business Model


 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

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

Daily Spins

 Slot machine mechanic granting in-game currency  1 free “daily spin” every day

 Additional “daily spin” can be purchased

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

A simple equation…

Our secret? Science!
mF =↑eng + ↑ret + ↑mon
…that I just made up!
More fun = more engagement, retention and monetization
If players are having fun they will play, stay and pay

Marketing Efforts

Marketing Mix
Ads on Bejeweled Blitz Facebook “Apple Love” Mobile Ads “Free App Of The Day” programs

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

What’s Next?

Next Steps for Bejeweled on Mobile

Bejeweled Blitz (Freemium)
• • • •

Bejeweled Premium
• Updates every 2-3 months with additional game modes and content iPad

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

The Challenge of Android
Screen resolutions Supported OS versions Phone models ARPU as % of iOS Active user base* Distribution Channels Ecosystem Platform

3 2 (iOS 4, iOS 5) 10 100% 250M 1 Integrated Closed

5 (key resolutions) 4 (2.2, 2.3, 3, 4) 100+ 25% 250M 10+ Fragmented Open (?)

A Billion New Players!
★ Facebook ★ Google+ ★ QQ ★ Vkontakte ★…
★ iOS

★ Android
★ Gree

★ DeNA