With over 60 million monthly active users, can Blackberry's BBM be a mobile games platform?


With over 60 million monthly active users on Blackberry’s messaging service, BBM, it’s one we can’t disregard just yet. Thorsten Heins, president and CEO at BlackBerry, said back in May that BBM users sent and received over 10 billion messages each day. If that was in May, then perhaps the figures have gone up by now, assuming BBM is still enjoying growth.

The goal of pushing BBM to iOS and Android is to gain as many users as possible. Heins made it clear in May that “the faster and higher that adoption rate goes [for BBM], the better it is for us.” While it might be late for Blackberry to realize how powerful and useful BBM is, especially in Indonesia, it still isn’t too late. Yet.

60 million monthly active users is something to be proud of. It isn’t too far from Line and KakaoTalk’s figures, which reported 230 million and 100 million registered users, respectively. No one is sure about how many of those are active users because neither discloses its numbers.

But assuming it is 50 percent (note: this is just a ballpark figure), then Line and KakaoTalk have 115 million and 50 million monthly active users, respectively. If we benchmark BBM’s number with other mobile chat apps based on monthly active user count, then BBM’s future seems much brighter. Also note that BBM has 60 million monthly active users on its own branded handsets. I think it is fair to expect decent growth when BBM finally hits the app stores on Android and iOS given the increasing interest from internet users.

The BBM mobile game platform?

So the question here really is: What is BBM going to eventually do with all these active users? The answer is likely a mobile games platform because it provides the most revenue potential, as proven by KakaoTalk and Line. Blackberry has always dabbled in games anyway, making them social through BBM.

But prior to the eventual rollout on Android and iOS, it is tough for Blackberry to make games on BBM truly social without making the messaging service ubiquitous across all platforms. So by opening up BBM, it allows friends, whether they are using a Blackberry, Xiaomi, or a gold iPhone 5S to play social games together. That might just work, and there should be more than enough mobile games for the BBM platform.

Although making BBM into a mobile games platform sounds viable, a couple of possible stumbling blocks might hinder the grand plan:

  • Can Blackberry, a hardware company by nature, win in software? The recent outages and delay in its BBM Android and iOS launch suggests some signs of weakness.

  • Do BBM users actually care about games? Blackberry users are mainly working professionals. Do they care about games? Or perhaps they are dying to be entertained?

  • How many of these BBM users are still using QWERTY keypad? It matters because building games for those keypad phones is a pain in the arse.

  • Will game developers give Blackberry a chance? They likely will as long as BBM proves efficient in driving users and revenue. App developer S4BB has created over 47,000 apps on Blackberry. But how about the rest, especially big-name gaming studios?

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