Reliance Communications has launched Games on the USSD platform. USSD is a GSM specific technology, and doesn’t work for CDMA services. Hence, the games will be available only to Reliance’s GSM customers. The first game launched is Tic Tac Toe (Naughts and Crosses); one should expect games on USSD to be basic, given the limitations of medium from a graphical user interface standpoint.
What is attractive, though, is the pricing: users need to pay Rs. 5 per day, or subscribe to a monthly pack of Rs. 30/30 days and play unlimited games. The game can be activated by dialing *123*212# from a Reliance GSM enabled handset. We’ve requested RCOM for screenshots of the game, and will update when we get them. They might be better off, though, downloading the same game (and more), from Hovr or Greystripe. Also note that SMS Gupshup had earlier launched Tic Tac Toe on SMS, but it’s a lot more expensive. with messaging to a premium short code at Rs. 3 a message.
On Services On USSD
Frankly, though we’re likely to see more and more services on USSD over the next year (many are in the pipeline), I’m not very bullish on it: from a users perspective, the dial-in codes are just too difficult to remember, and even in terms of interactivity, it’s better than SMS but not as good as GPRS and a real-time-interactive menu.
Discovery of content is also an issue, since the screen size is limited. I believe the more interactive option will eventually prevail. Nevertheless, we will see more and more services launched on USSD, and unless the service discovery issue is dealt with, they’re unlikely to have significant traction.
One suggestion for Telcos – it’s probably better to have a single dial-in code for all services on USSD, rather than having different codes for different services, which, I believe, is the plan. Else, it will just go the short-code way, with limited recall.