Time Crunch: Bunch Launched Chat Fast to Build a Multiplayer Gaming App

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How the multiplayer video chat gaming app Bunch integrated Stream Chat in just hours, allowing the team to go to market fast and innovate for the future.

Bunch Case Study Customer Testimonial

Challenge: The engineering team behind Bunch, a multiplayer video chat gaming app, required a fast-to-market, asynchronous chat solution from a third-party provider.

Strategy: After evaluating several competitors, Bunch chose to integrate the Stream React Native Chat SDK and UI kit. Bunch developers prototyped a chat app in hours, and launched with full chat functionality in a month.

Result: Bunch now supports hundreds of thousands of daily active users without much chat functionality maintenance. With the heavy lifting of in-app messaging taken care of by Stream, Bunch developers can focus on building a Unity-rendered spatial experience to pioneer a new way gamers can interact. Stream Chat will continue to play an important role in building community in Bunch 2.0’s metaverse environment.

About Bunch

Whether it involves cards, boards, or video game consoles, chances are that your weekly game night with friends leaves you feeling less stressed and more connected to your community.

But what if your gaming crew is unable to meet up in person?

Founded in 2017, the video chat gaming app Bunch enables groups of users to video chat over multiplayer games such as chess, basketball, pool, and trivia. Bunch also supports dozens of well-known games such as Roblox, Monopoly, Minecraft, Mariokart Tour, Catan, and more. During the 2020 global lockdown, millions of users downloaded Bunch to spend quality time with friends and family. While Bunch’s core functionality is synchronous video chat, the app’s asynchronous in-app chat is essential for groups to plan meet-up times, discuss games to play, and talk strategy.

As Bunch’s daily active users ballooned to over 100,000, the company sought a reliable chat solution from a third-party provider.

Here, Bunch’s Co-Founder and CTO Jason Liang explains why his company chose to integrate Stream Chat over other providers and how a reliable Unity chat asset allows Bunch devs to pioneer a new spatial experience rendered in Unity called Bunch 2.0.

Bunch Image

Image Source: Bunch

How Bunch Evaluated In-App Chat Providers

When seeking a chat solution, Liang and his team focused on finding a gaming chat API offering a polished UI kit that could deliver a professional user experience and rapid implementation. He also sought a solution with a chat pricing model to suit their unique requirements and an API that developers loved working with.

Before deciding on Stream, bunch evaluated several real-time messaging providers, including competitors PubNub, Sendbird, Agora, Redis, and Firebase. While Liang says that all solutions have their advantages and disadvantages, he and his team were most impressed with Stream’s beautiful UI kits and customizable API that could enable Bunch to launch chat quickly. “Stream had the best UI kit,” he says.

Additionally, Liang was conscious to bring on a chat provider that had a flexible pricing plan to enable Bunch to activate the exact features they required. Stream had the most flexible pricing plan out of all the chat providers Bunch evaluated.

Integration Took Just a Few Hours

Using the Stream React Native Chat SDK, Bunch developers prototyped chat functionality in just a couple of hours and fully launched in about a month or two. Liang says that the bulk of the engineering work to integrate the Stream Chat API was spent refining the user experience. “We care a lot about design. Consumers are getting more picky about UX, and we wanted to make sure that the chat interface perfectly matched our brand,” says Liang.

When his team ran into integration roadblocks, Bunch leaned on Stream’s responsive customer success team for support — a competitive advantage above other chat API providers. “The service level is great,” says Liang. “Stream has really good email support and great engineers on-call to help us solve our biggest tech problems.”

Had Bunch built their own chat using a solution such as Firebase, Liang posits that it would have taken his team vastly more time to go to market than integrating Stream — likely around four months — because his developers would have had to test more extensively and build the UI entirely from scratch.

Millions of Downloads: Chat Allows Bunch to Confidently Scale

After over a year of using Stream Chat to power in-app messaging, Bunch now has a high-performing chat functionality that Liang and his team don’t devote many engineering resources to maintain. “When a service is working as expected without much of our attention, that’s a good thing. Stream is pretty much a decision we made in the past and we don’t constantly have to worry about it. I think that’s a sign of great software because it allows our team to focus on building unique solutions,” explains Liang.

Put simply, the chat integration just works.

“Stream is pretty much a decision we made in the past and we don’t constantly have to worry about it. I think that’s a sign of great software because it allows our team to focus on building unique solutions.” – Jason Liang, Co-Founder & CTO, Bunch

Bunch players who use in-app chat asynchronously to plan games are notably more engaged in the platform than users who do not use Bunch’s messaging feature. Bunch’s user retention metrics have also increased after integrating Stream thanks to notifications implementation. Once a user sends a message, the recipient gets a notification, which stokes interest and intrigue, prompting users to log in to view the message.

More broadly, in-app messaging from Stream enables Bunch to cultivate communities that rely on their app to flourish. Rather than sending communications to external platforms — such as email and SMS text — Bunch’s chat feature keeps users returning to their app again and again. “I think every app that has anything to do with social media requires chat functionality to power a shared experience,” says Liang.

Architecting the Metaverse with Stream: Bunch 2.0

With millions of downloads and an engaged user base, Bunch is a highly rated app that will continue to delight and connect users worldwide.

Now, Liang and his team are building a new product they call Bunch 2.0, a multiplayer, spatial experience that can onramp users into digital ownership through blockchain.

Bunch 2.0 Rendering

Image Source: Bunch

Text-based communication will remain an important component of Bunch 2.0 because it enables a high number of users to chat with each other at the same time. While still in development, the Bunch 2.0 spatial experience is rendered in Unity and currently has a Native UI layer that co-exists with the environment. The space will appear similar to a 3D room with avatars and serve as a communal area for gamers to interact before entering games.

“Should we want to bring chat into the 3D space — for example, adding a chat bubble above each avatar — the Stream API can certainly handle that,” explains Liang. “I think the opportunities there will be extremely exciting.”

See how Stream’s APIs can take your community to the next level. Activate your free 30-day Chat trial today!