Social music app developer MXP4 is launching Bopler Games, a standalone Facebook canvas application in which users play a suite of games that revolve around licensed music. Bopler Games creates a new revenue stream for musicians by paying them royalties when users spend $1 in Facebook Credits to play with the full version of a song instead of a 60-second preview.
If MXP4 can demonstrate that social games can be a significant money maker for musicians, it could convince major record labels to loosen their grip and become more willing to license their songs. Social game micropayments might then help save musicians and record labels that have been struggling to earn money off of recorded music since the widespread adoption of the MP3.
Previously, MXp4 only offered games that musicians could brand and install on their Pages as tab applications, but there were no in-game purchases. This meant that while useful for familiarizing fans with music and drawing users to a musician’s Page, MXP4’s games didn’t monetize directly, making musicians and labels weary to pay the developer or license their most popular songs to it.
Licensed music has been available for listening in some games such as NightClub City, and developers such as CrowdStar have allowed musicians to sell digital downloads through their games. However, this appears to be the first time a prominent developer has allowed users to pay for music that can only be listened to in a game. This is important because these purchases are less likely to cannibalize download sales, and instead create a parallel revenue stream or even encourage download sales.
Along with its existing game Pump It!, which focused on triggering sounds in a style of reminiscent of Guitar Hero and recently reach 1.3 million monthly active users, Mxp4 has added several new game types. Space It! is a Space Invaders-variant where enemies move in sync with the music, Match It! is like Tetris but with certain blocks that can only be removed by dropping others in time with the beat, and Snake it! is a less structured Pac-Man where users can destroy enemies by clicking in time with the music.
The games are fun and intuitive, and virtual good power-ups and song purchases are naturally laced into the experience, so Bopler could attain a high average session length and average revenue per user. Mxp4 says it also has six more games in production.
Bopler Games sells traditional virtual goods in the form of power-ups, from which it takes all the revenue, and splits revenue from sales of music with musicians. The game uses its own proprietary premium in-game currency which users buy with Facebook Credits. Users can pay 10 Credits or $1 for a “music pass” for one song, though bulk packs of $100 in currency and 10 songs at a time can bring the price as low as $0.625 per song. All goods and songs can be purchased with earned currency as well.
Bopler Games still has many things to refine, including its payment flow. It’s not obvious how to buy songs with pre-purchased music passes. User can’t pay to play the rest of a song when a free 60-second preview concludes. A button to “Buy song and keep playing” might entice users to make an impulse purchase in order to immediately hear the next chorus or go for a high score. Viral sharing could be more focused around the licensed content. Finally, Bopler lacks a way for users to Like the Facebook Pages of musicians, which if added could improve the game’s value proposition to artists and labels.
The song selection is quite limited at the time, with the biggest hits coming from emo rockers Fall Out Boy, British pop singer Lily Allen, and 80’s band Culture Club. MXP4 needs to license some songs that are currently popular or early engagement rates may be low. If it can’t secure some radio hits, fix its payment flow, and help artists with fan retention, record labels may write off the micropayment model before it has shown its potential. The music industry needs social games, but MXP4 has to prove it.