Vodafone India has tied-up with Disney India to launch a subscription service called Vodafone Games and Apps for its subscribers using devices that run on Android, Java, Symbian and Blackberry.
As part of the deal, Disney India will provide games from its catalog such as Where’s My Water?, Where’s My Mickey?, Where’s My Perry?, Toy Story : Smash It!, Brave and Chennai Express to Vodafone subscribers. It will also offer Disney’s utility apps including Mickey Planner, Donald Photo booth and Goofy Weather among others.
To subscribe you can either visit live.vodafone.in/games or SMS GAMES to 111. Subscription fee ranges from Rs 20-150 (depending on the duration?) and an option to get access to the latest games by paying Rs 50. The store will also offer À la carte option and subscribers will be able to download and try the app twice before buying it.
When we checked the store, we could only find games by EA, which are distributed by DisneyUTV. There was no subscription option and each game was priced at Rs 50. DisneyUTV also used to distribute games made by Gameloft, but that deal seems to be over now that Gameloft has started distributing its games in India directly.
Games as a service: This is not the first such effort by a telco to distribute games as a service with subscription fee in India. Just earlier this month, Gameloft had entered into a similar deal with Idea to offer Java and Android games through its mobile website as part of Gameloft Club subscription. Gameloft had then informed us that it is working on creating similar carrier billing tie-ups with other operators as well, to sell games, but there has not been any formal announcement about this as yet.
DisneyUTV and Electronic Arts had tied-up with Aircel to launch a new retail recharge card called ‘Aircel Pocket Internet Games’ in 2012. It was offering unlimited 2G data to those who subscribed to the plan that included over 1,500 games.
However, what they don’t tell you about these deals is that the games offered in most of these operator stores are non-HD versions that are very different from those sold on Google Play Store. These non-HD games are smaller in size so that even people with 2G connections can download them fast and offer similar gameplay as the original app sold via Google and Apple stores.
While carrier billing and games as a service sound good on paper, they only suit the operators interest. It offers very little to smartphone users who would rather pirate the real deal than play a sub-standard version available via operator store. (I’m not encouraging piracy, just pointing out what is actually happening in the industry)
How about operator billing for official app stores instead?
Operators need to wake up from this pretty little universe they have created in their heads where people buy and download games via its store instead of Google Play. The reality is that no one knows about these stores and those who do, don’t really care about it. That boat has sailed.
Operators need to realise that the volumes are much higher in Play Store, in fact Indians are third internationally in terms of number of downloads from Google Play Store. However, we don’t figure in the top 10 countries in terms of revenue generated from apps. This is not just because people are not willing to pay; it is also because most people don’t use credit cards in India. This, incidentally is a problem operators can solve with carrier billing support.
Instead of creating these custom stores, may be operators should let people pay on Google Play Store using their mobile credit which can create an alternate source of revenue for the operators. Agreed, the margins will be lower in comparison to an operator run store, but the volumes will be much higher. Operators could even create special data bundles for downloads from these official stores, if they really want to, but it doesn’t look like any one has bothered with such ideas as yet.
Data bundles for using WhatsApp, YouTube, Facebook etc are nice, but these are just the beginning and may be operators need to look at services that will get subscribers to use more data. And guess what? Downloading games and apps that are more than 1 GB in size from these official stores are high up there in the list.