Update: An clarification from Real Networks. We’re told that Indiagames is adivising them on game deck management as a significant content provider, and not managing the network itself. The error is regretted:

“We take this opportunity to  refer to your article in “MediaNama regarding Management of Game section in Airtel Live Portal. Please note that RealNetworks has been managing the Airtel Live portal since almost three years now and currently have a contract dated February 29th 2008 with Airtel to manage the entire Airtel Live portal against certain revenue share. Indiagames is one of the content providers who are providing gaming contents, like over 50 CPs who are providing the contents to various sections/categories in Airtel Live WAP portal. The actual content placement and management is done by our team based in Gurgaon. This is an expert area and RealNetworks has many global references where we have similar arrangement with operators (refer attached list). RealNetworks is a global leader in digital entertainment including mobile VAS and has many patent related to mobile VAS.”

Original story:

Indiagames is managing the Airtel Live game deck
Another indication of the trend that Indian mobile operators are loosening their hold over mobile data services: MediaNama has learned from reliable, industry sources that UTV owned Indiagames has been managing Airtel‘s game deck for the last 3 months. We’re also told that gaming has become the largest contributor to revenues from the on-deck portal Airtel Live. However, it’s important to note that Caller RingBack Tones (CRBTs) are not a part of Airtel Live.

A “game deck” is essentially the catalogue of games that are displayed to the consumer on a WAP portal. Consumers tend not to dig too deep when accessing game decks, so deck management – choosing which games to display on the first few pages, is key to sales.

We contacted Samir Bangara, COO of Indiagames, who declined to confirm or deny the news, saying only that “Airtel is a key account for Indiagames, and we continue to find various ways of working strategically with them”. We’re also awaiting a response from Airtel.

Indiagames is both a games publisher and a distributor in India, so there could be a conflict of interest there, particularly when other game publishers are involved. Last year, at a NASSCOM Animation and Gaming panel on mobile gaming that I had moderated, Bangara had mentioned that Indiagames is working on a Games On Demand (subscription) service for the mobile. That hasn’t been launched yet, and I wonder if this is a precursor to the launch of that service.

End2End Mobile To Manage Vodafone India’s Game Deck?
We’ve also learned that End2End Mobile will be managing the game deck for Vodafone in India. End2End, rather MACH India, is operating out of Hyderabad and Bangalore. The service isn’t live yet. We’ve written to them, and are awaiting a response. According to their website, End2End Content Services “specialises in running content retail portals for mobile operators, portals and content providers.” Vodafone is one of their more significant customers, with deals in New Zealand, Turkey and Egypt.

What about RCOM?
All said and done, it’s good to see operators outsourcing their game deck management – something, for which they had been criticized, though not openly, by gaming companies. Games aren’t exactly ringtones and ringback tones, which enjoy marketing support, and gaming companies will invariably have a better understanding of gameplay, and which games work, and which don’t. At the same time, there’s a risk that if a publisher manages a game deck, he might push his own games.

At the same NASSCOM conference, Krishna Durbha, Head VAS, Business & Marketing for RCOM had invited gaming companies to manage RCOM game decks…I wonder if any gaming companies approached KD regarding the game deck management, and whether he followed through…