Big Fish Games
JUNE 20, 2008 • “A New Game Everyday.” That is the slogan and general mantra at Big Fish Games in Seattle. The company was founded by Paul Thelen in May, 2002 with $10,000 of his own money. Prior to starting Big Fish, Thelen was the Group Product Manager at RealNetworks where he helped launch RealArcade.
In its short existence, Big Fish has been on a strong growth trajectory. Having grown to over 300 employees Big Fish revenue doubled in 2007 to $51 million. The company is projecting revenue to double again in 2008. Several major business publications have recognized Big Fish Games’ growth and the company ranked in the recent Red herring Global 100 and Inc. Magazine recognized the company as No. 70 among the 500 Fastest Growing Companies in the Nation (#1 in WashingtonState).
Big Fish originally focused mainly on the U.S. but is starting to grow rapidly on an international basis. Only 50% of Big Fish Games’ revenue comes from the U.S., he rest comes from international markets, most notably Germany, France, Spain and Japan. The company remains privately held, but with the growth they have experienced it would not be surprising to see them do an IPO in the coming years.
Jeremy Lewis, the company’s CEO and President since 2006, comes from the financial services sector so he is well versed in the details of what goes into building a profitable company and the importance of ROI while maintaining customer satisfaction. Due to its rapid growth Big Fish has not had to solicit much external funding and has been able to grow organically.
Big Fish prides itself on being an analytics-based marketing and distribution company. They spend a lot of time researching their customers and half of their 300 employees doing R&D. Currently Big Fish Games has a global reach of more than 25 million monthly unique users and distribution partners such as Nickelodeon and iVillage.com. 70% of the company’s customers are female gamers and over 45% of female game players are between the ages of 45 and 64.
Big Fish Games Company Timeline:
05/02: Big Fish Games, LLC established
09/03: launch of web portal
04/05: purchase of Ion Thunder
06/05: launch Big Fish Games Deutschland
07/05: launch iVillage site (NBC) and Nickelodeon site (Viacom)
01/06: purchase game developer Funpause
02/06: launch of Big Fish Games Japan; Bobby’s Way
04/06: launch Game Club subscription service
09/06: launch My Big Fish Games (social networking service)
02/07: launch Principal Network Partner
11/07: launch Big Fish Games France
11/07: purchase MMO developer Thinglefin
03/08: launch Big Fish Games Spain
Big Fish has 3 core business models they follow: 1) Free-to-play online only browser based games that are advertising supported; 2) Downloadable games that are available for purchase at an average of $20 and 3) Value-added subscriptions that start at $5 a month and allow for benefits such as ad free game play, discounted purchases and tokens to enter prize lotteries.
Servicing both PC and Mac users, Big Fish offers a library of over 1,000 games. Although some are only available to buy, depending on the license agreement with developers, most titles offer a 60-minute free trial before requiring a purchase. Games vary greatly in download size, ranging from several MBs (e.g. Enigma, 35MB) to multiple GBs (e.g. Agatha Christie: Murder on the Orient Express; 1.15GB).
Big Fish is able to provide a wide range of games thanks to its Affiliate Developer Program where they currently have over 500 independent developers participating. Many of these companies are small international developers from Eastern Europe and Russia. Through the program developers get a straight percentage of revenue off the game, which is attractive to independent developers due to the high foot traffic the site provides.
The company’s own internal studio is specifically focused on building up the brand awareness of their games and focused on creating episodic content that extends their core game libraries. Big Fish’s internal studio releases a new game on an average of every 45 days.