Airtel has partnered with UAE based mobile games company Nazara Technologies to launch Airtel Games Club, a flat-fee mobile gaming subscription service in Kenya, Tanzania, Nigeria, Ghana, Uganda & Zambia. By the end of this year, the company plans to make the service available in all 14 countries in which Airtel operates in Africa. This rollout has taken quite some time: Nazara CEO Nitish Mittersain had mentioned about being in discussions with Airtel in January 2013, when the company had just launched its Africa operations.
Nazara both develops and distributes mobile games. Last year, it had inked an exclusive alliance with Electronic Arts (EA), allowing it to offer EA’s portfolio of mobile games to telecom operators across 49 countries in Africa including Nigeria, Kenya, Tanzania and Ghana. It appears that this portfolio, along with those from other gaming companies, are being distributed in Africa via Games Club. Games of offer include fairly successful games such as FIFA 14, Need For Speed and Bejeweled.
A few months ago, it had launched a subscription-based gaming portal called ‘Games Lounge’ for Batelco’s postpaid and prepaid mobile customers in Bahrain, and in the past, it has run Games Club for Airtel in India. Other Nazara businesses include Playcaso, an iOS and Android developer/publisher brand; nzLabs, a work-for-hire apps studio and gCity, a social gaming platform. It had also acquired BuzzCity’s mobile games and applications portal Djuzz and mobile social networking property MyGamma in January 2013. Mittersain had said in January that the company was also planning to expand operations to South Asian markets such as Thailand, Malaysia and Vietnam.
With Mobile VAS in India more or less dead, companies like Nazara who have so far relied on telecom operators for bringing them customers don’t really have a choice but to look overseas, and look at building an apps business (which it has done with games like Slice The Ice).
In India, mobile VAS based subscription businesses are on the decline, because of significant limitations on promotions via SMS and outbound dialers, but more so because of a double confirmation regime enforced by the telecom regulator TRAI, necessitated by massive consumer fraud (false billing) in the space. Mobile VAS activations declined by 56% between June and July this year alone, according to data collected by the telecom operator TRAI. Mobile VAS complaints have also declined by 91% between June and August 2013/