GDC 2012: PopCap's Contestabile on how setting Bejeweled Blitz free meant 9x more downloads and 5x more revenue
#gdc The power of fun and free-to-play
The talk was about how the company split its game Bejeweled 2 + Blitz into the free-to-play Bejeweled Blitz and the 99c Bejeweled.
The decision was made because Bejeweled Blitz was already available on Facebook, so making the one-minute game mode available on iOS meant the company could fully integrated the two, and update them more nimbly in future.
Similarly, replacing Bejeweled 2 from the App Store with Bejeweled meant that PopCap could update the game in terms of the newest Bejeweled 3 featureset and mechanics.
It dropped the number version in the title to show that Bejeweled is now a service, not a release focused game, at least on mobile.
The results of this decision have been surprising.
Bejeweled Blitz has been downloaded over 10 million times, while Bejeweled (priced 99c) has been downloaded over 1 million times.
"We've seen 9 times the number of downloads, 5 times the number of users, and 5 times more revenue on freemium compared to paid," Contestabile revealed, talking about Bejeweled Blitz compared to Bejeweled 2 + Blitz.
More significantly, the iOS version performs twice as well as on Facebook; iOS ARPU up 196 percent, engagement (25 games daily vs 52), retention up 200 percent, and monetisation up 206 percent.
Contestabile said that Apple is more efficient in terms of getting people to pay than Facebook because of the penetration of iTunes.
Freemium is the biggest opportunity for the mobile games industry, because there are a billion new players available, he added.
However, the integration between the iOS and Facebook version of Bejeweled Blitz meant that when the game was launched on iOS, PopCap saw an increase in usage on Facebook too.
Incidentally, though, PopCap found that only 20 percent of iOS players (in Italy) use Facebook Connect, which is required to compare your scores with your friends. This reduces the game's virality.
The launch wasn't mistake-free though.
The speed of the iOS version was speeded up to match Facebook app, which many players complained about, giving the game 2.5 stars.
Contestabile said that when you update a game, it's always players who are annoyed who will give feedback on iTunes more quickly than players who are enjoying the game.
Nevertheless, PopCap quickly started communicated with players, stopping forcing users to transition to new version. It worked closely with Apple to resubmit and launch an update within three days to address these issues.