PopCap Dips Toes In Freemium, Cans iPhone's Bejeweled 2
PopCap's flagship Bejeweled has seen a total 40 million lifetime units sold on mobile platforms, second only to Tetris. Now the company aims to keep the game in step with evolutions on mobiles, as today the EA-owned company launched new editions that will establish the franchise as a more persistent mobile and social platform.
Currently, Bejeweled 2 on iPhone comes bundled with a mobile version of Bejeweled Blitz; that version of Blitz integrates with the free version on Facebook. But with eyes on cross-platform connectivity, having to purchase Bejeweled 2 on mobile platforms in order to play Blitz on both platforms is a barrier.
Franchise business director Giordano Bruno Contestabile tells Gamasutra that the PopCap will retire Bejeweled 2 on iPhone and relaunch it as a new, premium product, at 99 cents with three initial modes. "We'll launch it and we're going to support it; we have new features we'll add in the next month," he says.
Alongside that launch comes a standalone freemium version of Blitz for iPhone and iPod Touch that connects to the Facebook version, marking the first time that PopCap has offered a "freemium" microtransactions-based game. Users can play with the same friends and the same leaderboards for a persistent experience, and buy in-game boosts through microtransactions. According to Contestabile, Bejeweled Blitz presently sees about 2.5 million unique users on Facebook daily.
"Bejeweled Blitz is spinning out as a free product which you can get from the App Store, and then you connect with Facebook, and you play the game connected with Facebook," Contestabile explains. "We think it's the best thing for us, to give as many players as possible the opportunity to play the game."
"Blitz on iOS will basically have the same features as Blitz on Facebook, and we plan to maintain that," he continues. "So on Facebook we launch features often... the idea is that iOS will launch the same kind of updates."
PopCap says it's pioneering "truly multiplatform social games" that are fully integrated. "It's absolutely the direction in which we want to go. Hopefully in the future we'll be able to do the same and launch games that you can play on smartphones, tablets, Facebook and even TV, and they'll be fully connected," says Contestabile.
Meanwhile, the new premium Bejeweled is positioned as more of a single-player game that PopCap will manage as a service over time. "There are features which are exclusive to that particular product," says Contestabile. "It's not a project that we will launch, file and forget. We have a full team that will work on it."