PopCap Says Making Bejeweled Free Will Lead to a New High Score (Video)

PopCap has big goals for Bejeweled, an 11-year-old puzzle game that challenges players to line up three or more matching jewels in order to clear them from the board.

For players, the goal is to clear as many gems as possible, but going forward, PopCap’s goal is to get as many people as possible to play the game.

To do so, the company’s strategy is to make it free.

AllThingsD visited PopCap’s Seattle office this week, and caught up with Giordano Bruno Contestabile, franchise business director for Bejeweled, to see how the game is evolving after more than a decade.

Earlier this year, PopCap was acquired by Electronic Arts for up to $1 billion, thanks to Bejeweled and other hit games, including Plants vs. Zombies.

Up until now, players had to pay for Bejeweled in order to play it, but PopCap has recently launched free versions on Facebook and the iPhone.

In the free version, players can challenge others to score as many points as possible in one minute. They have the option to pay for “power boosts” to increase their odds.

A paid version on the iPhone allows players to knock out gems without a time limit.

With the switch to the free-to-play model, Contestabile said, PopCap has a way of reaching a half a billion users, up from 40 million paid users. That’s comparable to Rovio, which claims to have achieved 600 million downloads in two years — both free and paid.

In this video interview, Contestabile talks about the benefits of the approach, while also disclosing that Microsoft and Electronic Arts had the chance to buy the game a decade ago for cheap, but passed:

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