airtel-games-club-logoBharti Airtel has launched GamesClub, a zone which allows users flexible models for accessing games content, reports TelecomTalk. This appears to be the first such deployment of a subscription model for games in India. Airtel appears to be populating the site with games at present – two days ago, there were just 14 games for the N95 available (screenshot), and now there are 23. There appear to be 26 games on the site at present. The domain Gclub.in appears to have content from multiple content providers, but has been registered by Nazara Technologies.

Pricing

Innovations around pricing models for games aren’t new: Greystripe and Hovr also tried advertising supported free games, but white-label it for companies like Indiatimes and Zapak, given the cost associated with even marketing free games. It’s been a while Reliance Communications tried out sachet based games with group company Jump Games a few years ago, as well.

GamesClub isn’t only about game subscriptions, though: they’re offering consumers the opportunity to choose the games they want.

airtel-games-club1. All You Can Eat: Users can download as many games as they want for Rs. 5 per day or Rs. 30 per week. They can unsubscribe from the service by SMS’ing unsub gc to 56363.
2. Pay Per Play: Users can pay Rs. 3 per session for playing a game
3.  Buy the game

How It Works

Users can download any game they like, and the game is installed with an Airtel GamesClub wrap-around. Unfortunately, this works only for Airtel Live (screenshot), GPRS plan, users, so I couldn’t try it out – I’m using the Mobile Office GPRS plan, since I’ve found that out to be the more reliable of the two connections. It’s Airtel’s loss entirely (screenshot) – they’re losing out on Mobile Office users.

It will be interesting to see how this model works with subscribers: our hunch is that it will facilitate a “try before you buy” practice, instead of an all-you-can-eat subscription. Far too often, users have been stuck with games with paying from Rs. 50-150 for games that provide a poor gaming experience, and this might help back some trust. It’s good to see the Harry Potter games in the list of those available, instead of just providing low end games like the ad-supported game providers were doing.

The Cross-Operator Opportunity

Mobile games are easily available on the web, and side-loading of games at small handset shops in India is well chronicled. Otherwise, there’s always the odd Yahoo Group with games uploaded.

Since users first download these games on to the handset, and then decide what to pay, it’s probably a good idea for Airtel to incorporate the means to forward these games from one user to another via bluetooth, much the same way that users share pirated games between themselves. This might help drive greater usage, particularly with an all you can eat model.

However, it won’t work in a situation where the two users involved with the transfer are with different telecom operators. Hence, yet again, there is need for the presence of an operator agnostic service: Games Club shouldn’t be just Airtel’s alone, and if telco’s can share revenue between themselves with, say, a discovery charge, similar to a mobile termination fee.