Letter from the CEO

Dear Hatchlings Hunters,

It’s been a busy year at Hatchlings and we’ve been working our bunny tails off! Since last Easter we’ve released over six hundred new eggs, held nine special events, answered five thousand customer support tickets, and served over five billion eggs to players from around the globe.

We’ve also expanded the Hatchlings brand to new games and platforms. In August, we released our first spin-off game, Hatchlings Match. It quickly grew to be our most popular game ever, amassing over five million new users in its first six months!

November marked our first foray into mobile games when we released our new word game, Alphabrawl, for beta testing. It is now available publicly in the Apple App Store.

At the end of December 2013, we also launched Hatchlings Match for iPhone and iPad.

This year we released our third Hatchlings branded game, the Worldwide Easter Egg Hunt. It’s a throwback to our very first game from 2008, Hatchlings 1. Many of you have been delighted with the nostalgia as you’ve raced to collect all 100 eggs before Easter.

We have also continued to release new worlds for Hatchlings Match, new eggs for Hatchlings, and we have a whole slew of fun up our sleeves as part of our Easter Eggcitement event.

We hope you’ve enjoyed the past year as much as we have! But we’re just getting started. We have big ideas scheduled for the rest of the year and hope you’ll join us for the ride.

We need your help making these plans a reality. While our games are free, creating them isn’t. We’re currently running our Easter shell sale. The revenue from your in-game purchases goes towards paying for salaries, egg artwork, code, servers, office space, and more. Please support Hatchlings by stocking up on shells today.

As always, thank you for your generous support. It gives me great pleasure to see how many people from around the world enjoy the games we craft each day.

Happy Hunting,
Brad Dwyer
Founder, CEO
Hatchlings, Inc
www.hatchlings.com

New Developments at Hatchlings

It’s been a little over a month since our last update and a lot has been going on.

Status Report

Our newest game, Hatchlings Match, has now passed 2 million users. This puts us in the top 200 Facebook Apps globally — for some reference, we passed Zynga’s hit game Draw Something in Monthly Active Users late last week.

This also means that Hatchlings Match is now officially larger than Hatchlings 2. And, at 2 months after launch, it’s growing much more rapidly than the original Hatchlings ever did.

Going Global

Much of this growth has been driven by Europe and South America. Of particular note are Brazil, Argentina, and Italy. Those three countries seem to have a particular affinity for Hatchlings Match.

As a result, today we’re announcing that the game is now available in Portuguese, Spanish, and Italian.

For good measure, we’ve also translated it into French and Dutch. More languages are on the way soon!

We’re Moving

On a completely different note, the Hatchlings office has moved!

After calling the Liberty Building our home for nearly 2 years, we’re happy to announce that our office is now located a few blocks down the road at StartupCity Des Moines.

We’re big proponents of our local startup community and hope that our presence at StartupCity will turn up the volume on the awesome things going on here.

The story behind Hatchlings Match

Last Monday our new game, Hatchlings Match, hit 100,000 users. Now, a week later and one month after launch we welcome our 500,000th user!

I’m also happy to announce that Hatchlings Match has officially passed Hatchlings 2 in terms of number of users. Yesterday it had about 15x as many players sign on as Hatchlings 2.image

With these milestones in mind, I wanted to take the opportunity to reflect on where we are as a company, where we’ve been, and where we’re going. (Hatchlings users: please be sure to read the final section.)

Context

For the first few years of its existence, Hatchlings was a very profitable endeavor. I was pretty successful at building up a solid userbase and decently successful at keeping costs extremely low.

Hatchlings was a startup that, while growing rapidly, was being treated by its founder like a small business. I should have been hiring like crazy with focus on building something for the long-term.

But, because I had it in my mind that Hatchlings was just a fad that was going to implode at any minute, I played it safe and didn’t hire anyone at all.

The Epiphany

Throughout the adolescence of Hatchlings I watched our major competitors raise hundreds of millions in venture capital. I remember decrying them for taking so much investment with — seemingly — no need for it.

At the same time, I was watching my own business being crippled by a lack of investment in the future. The constraint to growth was completely self-inflicted. At the time I didn’t see the contradiction.

The tipping point for me was when I saw one of our direct competitors go public at a multi-billion dollar valuation. It was at this time that, while still unsure of its future, I decided to give Hatchlings a shot at being successful. I hired our first employee a few weeks later and we were on our way.

The Grind

By this time Hatchlings was on a downward trajectory. The original game was built on old technology and an old platform that was slated for deprecation. The game had been designed for a Facebook that no longer existed.

Through a long series of evolutionary changes, the game had become stale and confusing.

We were (and still are) very lucky to have a traunch of highly devoted and engaged users who stuck with the game through thick and thin who were supporting the game financially.

Our first step, we decided, was to build a new game to solve the problems of our most vocal users. We wanted to incorporate the gameplay strategies they were making into the core gameplay and make it much less of a hassle to be a hardcore user.

That’s what Hatchlings 2 is: a reimagining of what Hatchlings 1 would have been for our power users in an ideal world.

The Dip

We succeeded in building just that. The Hatchlings 1 power user experience is now at the heart of Hatchlings 2. And many of our Hatchlings 1 players love it!

Unfortunately what we found as time went on was that, without the context of Hatchlings 1, it was hard for new users to understand why many of these features were useful. Furthermore, the new game that we had created had a relatively long period of grind before you discovered why it was fun.

The fun parts of Hatchlings revolve around the community. It’s the gifting, trading, helping, competing, chatting, and friendships that make the game compelling. But what we found was that the vast majority of new users were giving up before they started to understand what makes Hatchlings fun and different.

We spent the year or so after Hatchlings 2’s launch trying to balance our efforts between making the game more engaging and easier to understand for new users and keeping the game fresh for existing users.

Unfortunately, all the while, our core metrics kept drifting on a downward trajectory. In hiring people I had made a conscious decision to invest in the future knowing that we would have to go through a period of unprofitability before we would start to see the investments pay off.

When your expenses go up and, no matter what you do, you can’t seem to move the needle on any of your key metrics, it’s a very scary feeling. We knew we were doing something right because we still had a lot of people paying for their premium memberships each month, but we still couldn’t crack the growth code.

Every business has a user lifecycle. Your customers are never going to be with you forever. If you don’t have a stream of new customers to replace them, your business will die too.

For us, what it all boiled down to is that we were churning long-term users faster than we were able to convert new users into paying customers. That’s the recipe for the long walk into obscurity.

The First Step Is…

It’s oftentimes hard to admit to yourself when there is something wrong. Deep down in your gut you know it, but it’s easier to just ignore that feeling and keep plodding along than to confront it.

The day to day job of the company as a whole is to execute on the plan. At Hatchlings, we were doing an awesome job of that. Everything I asked of the team they delivered on flawlessly. Unfortunately, even perfect execution on a bad plan leads to failure.

As the CEO, my job is to decide what the plan should be. And the first step towards changing the plan is to admit to yourself that your current plan isn’t working.

With that in mind, we had a team meeting this summer where we enumerated all of the things that were wrong with Hatchlings 2. Sometimes honesty is brutal. We ended up with a full page front and back of all the problems, major and minor, that we had identified.

There were several commonalities, but we kept coming back to one thing: most people don’t find the actual collection of eggs in Hatchlings fun. The best parts are in the community and social interactions between players.

With our kimono opened we could finally have a frank discussion about what we should be focusing on. What we decided was that we needed to start from scratch and make a few simple games to test our theories on what would make Hatchlings more fun.

The first of those games is Hatchlings Match.

The Future

The recent success of Hatchlings Match doesn’t mean Hatchlings 2 is over. Quite the contrary, actually. We want to eventually bring what we’ve learned from our spin-off games back into the core game.

We have some innovative ideas about how to do this but that revelation will have to wait for another day.

From a company perspective, if we can keep the momentum of Hatchlings Match going, October will probably be our first profitable month in a long while. The new plan seems to be working, but we’re not out of the woods yet. We need to keep executing. At least now I have some confidence that we are executing on a solid plan.

Our first 10,000 users (or: Why you need to integrate Facebook)

We launched our new game, Hatchlings Match on Monday of this week. It’s now three days later and we’ve hit 10,000 users so I thought it might be useful to do a bit of reflection for the benefit of the community at large.

Takeaways:

  • Thinking we could do a soft launch was naive. Originally our plan was to take the game out of “Sandbox Mode” and send it to some close friends and family for some initial testing. Given our existing userbase it quickly became apparent that this wouldn’t be possible. Within a couple of hours one of our users had discovered the game via a mutual friend and shared it with their friends and it snowballed from there.
  • Our fears were unjustified. We discussed a lot of hypothetical situations as a team before the launch. We ended up wasting time making contingency plans for situations that ended up not happening (for example: “What if our users accuse us of abandoning Hatchlings?”). Some planning is good but a lot of these things could have just been dealt with if they arose.
  • Yes, Facebook integration really is a necessity. Many of our friends and users know how much we complain about Facebook. It’s frustrating when they go down, it’s frustrating when they change things, it’s frustrating when they introduce bugs, and it’s frustrating when they change the rules. People often ask us “Why do you keep putting up with it? Why can’t you just cut the cord?”

    Well, one of those frustrating situations happened with the launch of Hatchlings Match and it forced us into an involuntary A/B test.

    On our launch day, we grew from 5 users (our team) to 5,000 users over the course of about 12 hours. This sudden spike in growth apparently tripped a false positive in an automatic abuse-detection algorithm at Facebook and our app was summarily banned. The ban only lasted for a couple of hours (we appealed it and the app was quickly re-enabled).

    A side-effect of the ban was that we had to re-submit our open graph actions for approval by Facebook. So for about 48 hours we were without our main Facebook integration.

    This put us in the interesting position of having data showing exactly what the affects of Open Graph integration really are. Here is our new users by hour graph:

    image

    It’s pretty obvious where the ban happened and also where open graph was re-approved. The difference between the peaks and the valley? 800-900 new users per hour when Facebook was enabled vs 10-20 new users per hour without Facebook integration.

    So that is why we put up with the platform instability, unreliability, and uncertainty. It’s certainly a tradeoff but it’s hard to argue with the numbers.

Thanks everyone for trying out the game. We’re hard at work iterating based on your feedback!

Ready. Set. Match!

By now, some of you have probably heard: we’ve been working on a new game! For the past several weeks we’ve been busting our bunny tails at Hatchlings working on a spin-off game we’re calling Hatchlings Match!

We’ve taken the beautiful eggs you’ve come to know and love and built a matching game around them. The goal is to find all the eggs in a series by matching their tops and bottoms before your timer runs out.

This is the first companion game we’ve ever made so try it out and let us know what you think!

Play Hatchlings Match on Facebook

In March, our users collected more eggs than there are people in North America. This was such a great month for us, we created an infographic to celebrate! Click the image to enlarge it, and don’t forget to share it with the Hatchlings community! Bravo, hunters!

In March, our users collected more eggs than there are people in North America. This was such a great month for us, we created an infographic to celebrate! Click the image to enlarge it, and don’t forget to share it with the Hatchlings community! Bravo, hunters!

Hatchlings Auction!

We’ve teamed up with Aunt Sonie’s Shop on Goodsmiths to bring you our first-ever Hatchlings Auction! Up for grabs are five beautifully woven, limited edition “Handmade Hatchlings.” Made with yarn, buttons, sugar and spice, one of these fantastic five could be your very own touchable, huggable, lovable Hatchlings pet.

The auction is now officially open! It will close on Friday, March 29th. Place your bids quickly—you’ll want to beat the clock (and the other bidders, for that matter)!

Click to enter the Hatchlings Auction!

To bid, simply enter the highest amount (in shells) you’d be willing to pay for your favorite snuggly snowman and press submit max bid. If your maximum bid is higher than the current Highest Bidder, we’ll automatically pull the shells from your account and you’ll become the newest High Bidder. If someone outbids you, your shells will be returned. If you win, we’ll credit back into your account the difference between the highest “Current Bid” and your maximum bid.

Happy bidding, Hatchlings players!

It’s March (Egg) Madness!

Let the Easter Hunt begin! All month long, we’ll be featuring bonus collections, special releases and a few surprises for all our Hatchlings players across the globe. We’re excited to share with you some of the goodies you’ll find inside this month’s Easter basket!

TONIGHT! TONIGHT! (the world is full of light!)
Name that tune! Also, we’re releasing TWO collections TONIGHT at 12am GMT: the next Premium-Only collection and a Super Rare collection!

Double releases, all month long!
THIS MONTH ONLY, we’ll be releasing two collections per week! That’s double-releases, all month long! One series will come out every Saturday (as usual), but the other during different days of the week—so keep your ears perked and your hunting mouse at-the-ready.

Happy Easter, Hatchlings!

A Toast to You!

There were meatballs, bunny ears and streamers—craft beers and deviled eggs galore! Happy birthday to all the forest critters in Hatchlings 2! Last month, we had a lot to celebrate: our 5th birthday, our first year as a re-startup in the Silicon Prairie and (finally!) our launch from Beta. It was a rip-roaring good time; if you didn’t catch the pictures, you can see them here.

The party was held at Winston’s Bar and Grill, a chic second-story hangout with a beautifully polished mahogany bar, velvet curtains and giant paintings of old men on the walls (one of whom, presumably, the late Winston).

We greeted our peers, mentors, friends and families as they walked through the doors—and within one hour, the place was absolutely packed. Abby and Kaylee made it rain drink tickets, and as soon as everyone had a beer-in-hand, Brad Dwyer, the Founder and CEO of Hatchlings, stepped onto a chair. “Shhhhh’s!” burst from the crowd and a general hush swept through the room.

“To all of you, and to many who aren’t present today,” Brad said in a booming voice, “thank you. We’re here because of all your support!” He held his drink aloft to raucous applause and cheers.

We ended our night with pizza, some impromptu dancing and a cupcake eating contest (as in, who ate all those cupcakes?!). The night was a major success. We all took a step back to remember how we got here, and who we have to thank—and that’s you.

So a toast to everyone: Hatchlings players, supporters, donors, our families, friends, and the startup community here in Des Moines. Another round, on us!

Hatchlings Gets New Digs

December was an eventful month for us! From the addition of a new team member (say “hi” to Karen!), and the New Year’s double collection release, we’ve been busy bunnies!

As some of you may know, we recently updated our digs, so to speak, by expanding into another office (sorry, Pongr). After several eventful trips to Ikea, a few internal dialogues regarding the best mood lighting for egg-semplary productivity—and someone got a new chair (that’s me!)—we are the proud occupants of a newly remodeled, renovated, BRIGHT RED office in BitMethod.

Downtown Des Moines is pretty primo real-estate. We’ve got a ping-pong table in the back, a fully-stocked fridge in the front, and a great cast of other entrepreneurs and oddities in between! Poker nights are Thursdays, long-distance lunch dates are Fridays. Downstairs is the Kaleidoscope, a hub of chic clothing retailers and cheap chinese food—you get the idea.

Welcome to the new Hatchlings office—happy hunting!