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NZGDC13: Ninja Kiwi on the evolution of IP

Ninja Kiwi’s Bloons TD series is probably the longest-running Kiwi-grown game franchise. Its next edition, the sixth, in the series, will attempt some fairly major changes.

Founder Stephen Harris and lead developer Lee Grey offered up some perspective on the decisions the company was making around the franchise, and the hopes and rationale underpinning those.

With 2 million downloads and $7.5 million in revenue, Harris certainly wasn’t complaining about the success of the latest BTD game. It reached #2 on the App Store but, he noted, launched a week after Angry Birds: Star Wars so “We never had a shot at beating that. I like to think we were morally #1!”

The move from flash to offer mobile iterations of Ninja Kiwi’s games has been a positive one. Initially Scotland-based Digital Goldfish was contracted to port the games, until Ninja Kiwi bought out the Scots last year.

Harris noted that, of the company’s revenue streams, 22% of income came through purchases on Ninja Kiwi, while 78% came from mobile iterations of the game via iTunes and other third parties.

Ninja Kiwi has kept BTD5 as a paid app in a world now dominated by free-to-play, because “the internal workings of the game don’t so much lend themselves to an embedded monetization strategy”.

That’s not always in the best interest of the bottom line. Harris noted that BTD5 “has pay to win features”.

Those were a mixed blessing, he suggested. People pay, but once they win they move on to something else. “We see nothing more out of them.”

The next version of the game, Bloons: Monkey City will have stronger in-app purchase (AIP) opportunities but, Harris noted, they’d been designed to speed up game-play rather than put a stop to it. “We’ve come a long way learning about monetization,” Harris observed wryly.

The move to introduce a second genre, as BMC will be a city-builder, will also deliver new gameplay modes, including player v player (PvP).

Harris said the team wanted people to be able to win PvP events easily, with the intention of creating “a revenge mentality”, which operates as one of the most successful in-game monetization strategies.

Grey acknowledged the move has taken the company into uncharted territory, although so far it had gone well. He said, “We prototyped easily and quickly, translated that to game-ready assets and behaviours easily. It looks promising.”

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