It’s our favorite time of the year. No, not because of the refreshing -40 degree temperatures of Canada’s Capital – though that’s swell – but rather because we can escape the cold for a week of fun in San Francisco!
So, if you’re going to be at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco March 2nd – 6th, be sure to drop by and say “Hello”. We’d love to meet, discuss your game, get feedback on the platform — maybe even share a drink or two!
We are there for the whole week – but the easiest places to find us will be:
Wednesday – Friday – we’ll be at Booth 2444 on the GDCExpo Floor. We will be easy to find – we are way, way back in the far right-hand corner! Best booth in the house – ulp! 🙂
We’re also out and about the rest of the week. Some of the events we’re attending include the Vesuvio Party on Monday Night and the Ontario Social on Thursday Night. Drop us a note at “sales at getbraincloud.com” to meet up.
It seems like every other day that we’re asked – “Is brainCloud only for games? Can I use it for other types of apps?”
Make no mistake about it – the brainCloud BaaS is primarily designed for games.
But this doesn’t mean that it can’t be used for apps (including IoT) as well. In fact, allowing for any type of application is key to our overall business philosophy – use as much or as little of the API as you’d like, and only pay for what you use.
We’ve worked hard to ensure that brainCloud is the best BaaS / MBaaS solution available for the development of Freemium and/or Gamification enabled apps.
Key BaaS for Apps Technical Features
The key app-related features include:
Comprehensive Cloud data – user / global scoping, stats / entities / storage
Flexible Identity Management – identify users via E-mail, Facebook, Google Id, etc.
Cross-platform Push Notifications – reach out to your user base in real time across device platforms
Server-side Receipt Validation – increase revenues by eliminating in-app purchase piracy using server-side receipt validation
Rich Gamification – player XP, achievements, leaderboards and more are available for when [if] you decide to add Gamification
Easy integration – local libraries available across all device platforms (iOS, Android, WinPhone, BB10, Web, PC/Mac, etc.)
Great designer / debugger web tools – the brainCloud design tools make it easy to set up your game, and the monitoring tools make it easy to view, debug, and even edit the data of your app as you develop
Key BaaS for Apps Business Features
The key business / product management features include:
Centralized pricing controls – control the pricing of in-app purchases centrally
Scheduled promotions – set up promotional pricing in advance, together with language-specific cross-platform push notifications for when sales / events start
Auto promotions – plus, design custom auto promotions to be automatically triggered when users enter a defined user segment. For example, a day after a user utilizes a new feature, hit them with a promotion to activate the “premium” version of it
Cross-platform Analytics – brainCloud include built-in “just-in-time” analytics that reports on the usage and monetization of your app, across platforms
Support Tools – the Monitoring tool makes it easy to provide field support for your user base
Affordable Elastic Pricing model – brainCloud “No-Brainer” pricing is based on API usage – only pay for as much of brainCloud that you’re utilizing. Pricing starts at just $25 / month, and is completely free during development.
The Backend-as-a-Service business case
And of course, the brainCloud business case works for the BaaS for Apps model as well.
Save development time and budget – zero developer and service costs during development!
Save hosting / operational costs – brainCloud is much cheaper than hosting yourself, plus you don’t need dedicated IT support personnel!
Increase revenues – brainCloud’s freemium and promotional features will increase the monetization of your app
So, the next time someone asks “Is brainCloud designed for games, or other types of apps?” – the answer is “Yes.”
For more information, why not take a test drive? Sign-up free today!
“Would it make sense to cloud-enable an existing, successful, single-player mobile game?”
My gut reaction was “probably not“. We know that the sweet spot for our Backend-as-a-Service is with social and multiplayer games, where a back-end is pretty much required. For those customers, pitching brainCloud is simply a question of Build vs. Buy.
That said, brainCloud offers a *lot* more than just multiplayer and social features – features that greatly aid in the management and monetization of any free-to-play game… so lets dig deeper and do the full analysis.
First, a bit of background on the game in question:
It’s a freemium mobile game on iOS and Android
The game is successful, and doing roughly 50K DAU, with about $0.02 ARPDAU
Monetization is via in-app-purchases for speeding up the accrual of key stats and in-game currencies – progressing the meta-game
There are no social features – no leaderboards, etc.
The game is integrated with no cloud tech, other than analytics and some advertising – so no cloud saves, etc…
It’s a very small team – 1-3 devs really – so time is money
So – what benefits cloud features have to offer a game like this? And do the benefits out-weigh the impact of adding the new monthly cloud service costs?
It’s easy to argue that their player base will grow and become more engaged if you add cloud saves (so players can play across devices), social leaderboards (to compete against friends), published achievements, player vs. player challenges, etc… but it’s impossible to predict (or later prove) what the monetary impact of those incremental improvements might be… [plus, in this case there’s an existing product and customer base – so greatly evolving the game storage and socialization strategies might be disruptive].
Instead – lets take this from a purely monetization perspective. One of the key focuses of brainCloud is not just providing the bread-and-butter of cloud tech – but also providing a platform that allows you to really increase the monetization of free-to-play games.
So – focusing just on the freemium monetization features – what minimal integration efforts would result in maximum return for the game?
The key features I’d suggest are:
IAP Validation – brainCloud provides server-side receipt validation, which eliminates IAP piracy, resulting in a boost to IAP sales. Let’s be conservative and predict a 5% boost to IAP revenue as a result. [For some background, see this GamaSutra article regarding IAP piracy.]
Scheduled Promotions – brainCloud provides certralized coordination of pricing and promotions, across platforms. And brainCloud supports scheduling of promotions – and automated sending of push notifications to inform the user base of the promotions as they happen. Sure this is stuff a product manager can coordinate manually – but when you’re a small company, you tend to focus on the new products and leave the old ones to fend for themselves. It’s fair to expect say 2.5% boost from allowing brainCloud to do this for you.
Automated [Targeted] Promotions – finally, brainCloud allows you to aim targeted promotions and dynamic player segments. This means, you can define a player segment for “VIPs that are leaving the game” – and hit them with a special promotion to get them to stay. Given that whales are responsible for 80% of revenue for most games, extending that stay should be easily worth another 5% boost.
It would only take a week or two to add these features to the game (plus a bit of testing of course).
The game is currently bringing in about $30K USD per month (50,000 DAU x 0.02 ARPDAU x 30 days). A 12.5% increase on the monetization results in an additional $3,750 USD per month.
But… now there are [brainCloud] server costs – so we’ve got to factor that in.
Looking closely at brainCloud pricing, you can see that 50K users is estimated at about $1600 USD per month – which seems pretty reasonable given the benefit.
But wait, that’s assuming 100 brainCloud API calls per DAU – if the game is only using brainCloud for monetizaiton, it’s API usage will be way, way down – we’re probably talking 5-10 API calls per DAU (and that’s assuming players are playing multiple sessions a day).
Lets say it’s 10 API calls per DAU. In a month, that would be only 10 x 50,000 x 30 = 15M calls – which is actually only $150 / month*. Talk about a bargain! 🙂
* and that’s before the early adopter discounts!
And, the moral of the story is, there’s always room for increased monetization.
Our estimates are that for a cost of 10 days of integration, plus $150 monthly for brainCloud, the developer will see a 12.5% increase in sales, which in this case is a monthly increase of almost $3600 USD per month.
Even if the increase were over-estimated by a factor of 10x it would still be worth it in the long term…
One Final Note
This pricing analysis points out one of the greatest aspects of the brainCloud pricing model – you just pay for the amount of the service you use (in millions of API calls), not for the amount of the service that the provider fears you *might* use.
Utilizing these same features from competing platforms at 50K DAU could cost as much as $3000 / month!
Makes brainCloud seem like quite the deal, doesn’t it? 🙂
As you know, we are continually measuring, tweaking and improving the performance of brainCloud.
The good news is that the latest round of platform optimizations had a greater impact than expected – meaning we can handle even more users on our servers at lower cost.
The even better news is this means, effective immediately, we’re adjusting our pricing tiers downward.
This is part of our ongoing pledge to align brainCloud pricing with our costs, to ensure we’re offering you the most cost-effective solution possible.
While delivering the good news, we thought we’d spend a moment to provide a bit more background on brainCloud’s pricing model.
API Usage – the brainCloud Pricing Model
brainCloud pricing is based on API Usage – which is the number of API calls (requests + responses) that your app makes to our servers.
We choose API Usage because:
Cost alignment – it aligns directly with our server costs
Cost transparancy – the costs are calculated without hidden assuptions (e.g. average user engagement, etc.)
Scalable by benefits – it allows customers to decide how much or how little of brainCloud to use, and pay accordingly
Of course, it does have the disadvantage that unlike DAU (Daily Active Users) or MAU (Monthy Active Users), API Usage is not a term that most developers and business people are used to talking in terms of.
Estimating API usage
Reporting API usage after-the-fact is straight forward; Estimating API usage ahead-of-time is tricky.
brainCloud API usage is dependent upon:
the type of app or game
how much of the brainCloud feature set you’re using
the engagement of your game (length of play, # of sessions, etc.)
For shorthand, we can use the following formula:
Estimated # API calls = <API calls per DAU> x <avg DAU per day> x 30 days
So – for example, if we were estimating the montly cost of a game with:
100 API calls / DAU (which is about our system average)
5000 daily active users (average)
it would total 15M API calls per month, which would cost $150 USD.
Average API usage
The API Usage per DAU in brainCloud varies by app – but averages ~100 API Calls per DAU.
Some competitors quote an average of 200 or 300 API calls per DAU – there are 3 main reasons for this discrepancy:
Designed for mobile (less chatty) – Our API is optimized for mobile, and from the beginning has been designed to do more with fewer interactions.
They are conservatively estimating cost – for them to match up costs to revenues in their forecasts, they need to conservatively estimate how much server usage a player could cost. It’s human nature to therefore estimate high to ensure that costs are covered. We have no need to do this since we charge for API usage itself
We support lower usage scenarios – Clients are free to use as much or as little of brainCloud. Want to use brainCloud for cloud saves only? No problem. brainCloud monetization features only? Go nuts – and pay less because you’re utilizing our servers less!
In practice, we’ve had apps in our network use less than 10 transactions per DAU, and some use upwards of 200 API calls per DAU. We’ve not yet had an app average greater than 300 API calls per DAU.
And note, brainCloud includes tools to help you assess and optimize your API Usage – to keep your costs (and our server usage) down. Our costs go down, and your costs go down – win:win!
Free during development
We hope this clears up any questions you may have about pricing in brainCloud.
As always, brainCloud is free during development (up to 100 users), and if you sign up before March 6th, 2015, you lock in our special Early Adopter pricing until 2016!
bitHeads announces brainCloud, a new revolutionary cloud solution for game developers
Leading games technology company today announced the industry-wide availability of brainCloud, a streamlined backend solution for comprehensive, cloud-based game management.
Ottawa, Ontario, and Montreal International Games Summit (MIGS), Nov 12, 2014 — Previously only available to select game developers, bitHeads has officially launched brainCloud to support backend development and build revenue opportunities for game developers.
An out-of-the box solution for game development and management challenges, brainCloud is set to revolutionize the interactive games industry.brainCloud is a robust backend cloud-based production toolset that cuts game development time and costs by providing a one-stop solution that manages multiplayer features, monetization, cross-platform analytics, promotions, sales, and more. brainCloud works seamlessly with existing tools to operate and grow a game developers’ core business.
Dramatic shifts in mobile game development over the last five years demand fast-paced development that integrates innovative tools and drive user engagement while providing effective analytics and monetization strategies. To be commercially viable, games require multi-platform and multi-network support, game management systems, deployment, and advanced analytics. Addressing this need, brainCloud is an advanced solution within the emerging category of the cloud-based platform tools for games development.
Key brainCloud features include:
Local Platform Integration – when a player is awarded an Achievement in brainCloud, that achievement is also triggered in iOS GameCenter.
Advanced Pricing and Promotional Features – brainCloud provides support for multiple virtual currencies and coordinates the product and pricing management across all platforms, allowing the developer to quickly put items on sale with just a few clicks.
Scheduled Promotions – sales can be pre-configured well into the future and when the promotion automatically triggers, players will receive notifications on their devices (in their language), and automatically get the preferential pricing when they go into their store screens.
Advanced Auto Promotions – developers are able to define dynamic target segments of users and trigger individual promotions just for them. For example, a developer could define a promotion for “MVPs that may be leaving the game” – and define the criteria as “players who’ve played > 50 times, who’ve spent > $20, and who haven’t played in the past 5 days”. Whenever a player enters this segment, a special “Promotion for MVPs” would be triggered, offering them a product at a huge discount, in an attempt to keep them in the game longer.
“Auto Promotions are just the beginning of the sort of advanced monetization features that bitHeads has in store for brainCloud,” notes brainCloud product manager Paul Winterhalder. “There’s no limit to the sort of advanced features that we can build to help developers to better engage and monetize their communities.”
“Having worked with the team at brainCloud on multiple projects, they definitely know their stuff when it comes highly-scalable back-ends,” says Stu Duncan, founder of Bight Games, the creators of ‘The Simpsons: Tapped Out”.
“Before building our latest game, Project Cyber, we looked at a number of backend-as-a-service platforms. None of them had as complete a game feature set as brainCloud”, says Spearhead Games co-founder Atul Mehra.
Wanda Meloni, CEO of M2 Research explains, “Solutions such as brainCloud now offer small-to-mid-size developers the sort of back-end infrastructure previously only available to larger developers such as Zynga, King.com and Supercell. Providing an out-of-the-box solution, bitHeads and brainCloud are really leveling the playing field.”
Outlining key findings from M2 Research’s upcoming State of Game Development Report Meloni notes, “Independent developers with less than 25 employees now make up 62% of the games development market, while mid to large scale indies represent another 13%. With 75% of the total game development market made up of independent teams, optimizing backend infrastructure is critical for developers looking to build in cross-platform development, monetization and ultimately cost savings.”
“bitHeads has been building customized backend solutions for clients since 1995. The growth and need in the market is there, and with brainCloud we have built a robust and scalable platform that helps developers concentrate on what they do best – make great games. We help them get games out faster, save on development, hosting and maintenance costs, and have built-in features specifically created to increase revenue,” says Scott Simpson, CEO of bitHeads.
Developers who sign up before December 31, 2014 qualify for special early adopter pricing until 2016. Sign up for a free trial now at getbraincloud.com.
ABOUT BITHEADS: For nineteen years, bitHeads has been building games and network development solutions for some of the most well respected brands in business today. Providing secure, custom development solutions bitHeads is a leading provider of cloud and backend infrastructure, mobile, big data and M2M solutions. brainCloud has been developed in partnership with the Canada Media Fund.
We at brainCloud are pleased to present the first (of many) brainCloud tutorial videos.
Because so many of you are using Unity, our first videos will focus on getting brainCloud up-and-running in your Unity projects. (Don’t worry Cocos2d-x and Unreal folks – we’ll cover you in future tutorials as well!)
Note – we plan to add new videos regularly over the next few months to cover off all the key features of brainCloud – so subscribe to updates to be notified when new videos become available.
Unity Tutorial #1 – Getting Started in Unity
In this tutorial, Preston Jennings, the lead Development Manager for brainCloud, walks the developer through the process of adding brainCloud support to an example Unity game. You can download the tutorial files here.
Note – this tutorial assumes that you’ve already signed up for brainCloud – if you haven’t yet, go to getbraincloud.com and register now (it’s free!) – plus if you register now (before end of 2014) you get early adopter pricing until 2016!
Topics in this tutorial:
Overview of the brainCloud Unity Example project
Creating new apps in the brainCloud Design Portal
Authenticating with brainCloud
Defining and interacting with brainCloud Player Statistics
We hope you like it – feedback welcome – and happy coding!
Game companies can no longer focus solely on designing fun – today’s studios are adapting the free-to-play business model and with it the increased focus on accessibility, monetization, conversion rates, social acquisition, and constant evolution.
With the new models and platforms of today, large developers are increasingly building and integrating cloud services into their games, to better tap into and maximize the Free-to-Play business model.
Given the essential nature of these systems, it is no wonder that many companies choose to implement their own back-end. In fact, as of August 2014, 49 of the top 50 Top Grossing iOS games were all utilizing custom backend solutions that cost millions of dollars to build.
Which is fine if you are a top tier developer who’s already had your big hit in the market. But what if you’re not?
A better way
Over the years, we at brainCloud have built our fair share of these back-ends — for everything from online casinos and arena shooters, to top-tier mobile games like Simpsons: Tapped Out.
We know from experience that there is a ton of common features in all of these back-ends, and that every custom solution ends up having game-specific logic and often significant compromises in it’s implementation. (And, without exception, extreme gaps in their tools support).
We realized that there had to be a better way. A way to design a system that could be used out-of-the-box by a huge variety of game types, customized where necessary, and deployed in a rapid fashion to support the tight development schedules and budgets of today’s gaming market.
Presenting brainCloud – a Backend for Gaming
And so, we’re pleased to present brainCloud – the result of three years of development, countless years of experience in the industry, and all our best thinking. We call it a “Backend in a Box” – and it’s so much more than the competing solutions out there.
We start with all the key gaming features you need —multiplayer, matchmaking, cloud data, leaderboards,achievements, identity management, social integration, in-app purchase support, push notifications — we’ve got you covered.
To keep you productive, we provide native libraries for all the major platforms and game engines (Unity, Cocos2d-x, Unreal) – so you won’t mucking about making your own http/rest calls (unless you want to).
And we’ve paired those libraries up with the most feature-rich tools in the business – that support your entire team through the design, development, testing+support andproduct management cycles of your product.
And finally, the best for last – we’ve built upon this platform a set of advanced Promotions features that enable you to identify and target key segments of your player base and engaged them in individualized promotions – providing you the means to increase conversion, retention, and engagement – igniting your game’s monetization to new levels.
I look forward to taking a deeper dive into brainCloud with you in the coming weeks – stay tuned – and happy coding!