Big Fish Games on why mobile is a fantastic audience expansion opportunity

But it's all about redesigning, not porting

Big Fish Games on why mobile is a fantastic audience expansion opportunity
One of the largest casual game developers, publishers and distributors, US outfit Big Fish Games has steadily been building up its mobile business, especially on iOS.

However, it was the news that it had released its first freemium iPhone game - Plunder! - that really got us interested in what it was up to, and where it was going.

We caught up with COO John Holland to find out more.

Pocket Gamer: Why is mobile important to a casual PC/Mac publisher such as Big Fish Games?

Holland: It's a fantastic audience expansion opportunity for us. Many of the attributes that have driven our downloadable business in terms of rich, immersive gameplay, across genres such as adventure, hidden object and puzzle game lend themselves incredibly well to mobile devices.

How do you decide which games to release?

We look at it on a game by game basis. We have a wealth of opportunity, whether our own IP or that of our development partners, to bring games to mobile.

We're known for making great games irrespective of platform. We're a multi channel developer in terms of download, mobile, console, and social. We try to make great games for the platforms we're delivering on.

So rather than just looking at porting downloadable games to mobile, we view it as a different exercise - looking at each game and considering what gameplay and attributes will lend themselves best to a particular mobile device, whether iPad or iPhone or some of the emerging Android devices.

Isn't there a financial temptation to release as many titles as possible?

We have 25 titles on the App Store. We were early with Everest: Hidden Expedition on the iPhone. We were a launch partner on the iPad. I think 25 is a healthy number, although it is the tip of the iceberg in terms of the number of games we could bring to the iPhone. But it's not a race to get games to market.

We have a very well curated and thoughtful approach to redesigning game for new devices. For example in Everest: Hidden Expedition and Amazon: Hidden Expedition, we've introduced multiplayer features. In Big City Adventure: San Francisco, we introduced live voice chat. We're really trying to design for the platform.

In this way, the games we're brought to market are indicative of our attitude in terms of the high quality we focus on every day, whether it's from our studios or our portal business.

We're known for delivering great games every day, and we're not going to compromise that strategy just to get more games out there.

What's your view on the price of mobile games?

I think publishers in the mobile space are very positive in terms of the price integrity we've seen on iPad.

There's a race to lower price points on the iPhone, but with larger resolutions and a different audience, the price for iPad games has settled at a higher level. We're really encouraged by the price points that iPad continues to deliver.

Why have you released your first freemium iPhone game?

We want to experiment in terms of monetisation and gameplay mechanics, and we will continue to test different options.

We like the ability to innovate when it comes to an evolving ecosystem, where you have very different consumers making very different choices - from people who are very happy to make an individual download purchase to social gamers who are much more comfortable with in-app purchases.

We want to be able to deal with the full range of consumers. Of course, certain gameplay and genres make more sense than others in terms of the pricing options they lend themselves to.

What's your view on new platforms such as Windows Phone 7?

We're evaluating all of them. We feel very strongly that mobile, irrespective of manufacturer or distribution network, lends itself very well to a large swath of our IP.

In terms of Windows Phone 7, Microsoft seems to be taking a much more curated approach in terms of how it's merchandising games.

More generally though, the really interesting thing for us is the distribution and penetration these devices are getting internationally. We have a very strong emphasis on localisation - we do our own localisation - so countries that have a strong presence with these emerging devices are very important to us in terms of where we're looking to invest resources.

What about markets such as tablets and internet TV?

We're a multi channel developer and distributor of games. New channels that allow us to expand, and to continue to bring the best games to market, are a great opportunity for us.

Thanks to John for his time
Contributing Editor

A Pocket Gamer co-founder, Jon is Contributing Editor at which means he acts like a slightly confused uncle who's forgotten where he's left his glasses. As well as letters and cameras, he likes imaginary numbers and legumes.