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Mobile operators, handset makers rake it in with mobile gaming

10-January-2005
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Mobile operators, handset makers rake it in with mobile gaming

No matter how old you are, there’s always a ‘child’ in you. And who better than marketers to know this little secret? Mobile operators and manufacturers are increasingly tapping the fun side of consumers by introducing more and more Java games and devices. The mobile gaming market is gaining momentum in India, with not just teenagers but adults too catching up with the trend.

Today, one finds not just teenaged boys and girls hunched for hours over game consoles, playing ‘shoot ’em up’ games, but housewives too! “It’s just a fallacy that only teenagers like mobile games. It is true that a lot of players are teenagers. However, now a significant number of players belong to the 45-plus age group,” said Balu Nayar, Vice-President, Value Added Services, Hutchison.

Studies show that India is going to be the next major destination for the mobile gaming market. Market analysts aver that India is emerging as a massive market for mobile gaming and revenues of over $336 million are being predicted by 2009. The In-Stat/MDR study has forecast that mobile gaming would have generated $26 million by end-2004.

Interestingly, although the revenue contribution of value-added services (VAS) to the total GSM kitty may not be that significant now, marketers believe that there is a vast potential to grow. Asked on the revenue generated from mobile games, Mohit Bhatnagar, VP-Value Added Services and New Product Development, Airtel Mobile Services, said, “It is difficult to peg numbers but Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) circles say VAS contributed under 5 per cent of a GSM operator’s quarterly revenues in the past. That number, COAI says, has risen to 8-10 per cent for the biggest cellular operators. Internationally, 15-18 per cent of a mobile operator’s revenue comes from VAS. The Indian mobile industry is now looking at reaching a similar level.” Hutchison’s Nayar also believes the same: “The growth has been robust and is indicating10 per cent month-on-month.”

Both Hutch and Airtel claim that there has been a quantum leap in usage. An average of 1,20,000 mobile games were downloaded every month in 2004 by Hutch users. This is a phenomenal fifty-fold increase from an average of 2,200 game downloads in February 2003. This growth is expected to increase further with increasing penetration of GPRS handsets and applications, claimed Hutch officials.

Airtel’s Bhatnagar points to another trend. “The response so far has been extremely encouraging and the increase in popularity of mobile gaming is no longer limited to the metros. It is a phenomenon that is increasingly spreading to all A, B and C category circles,” he said, adding that Airtel has seen a 500 per cent increase in daily downloads for its VAS services compared to the first quarter in 2004.

Previously, one of the concerns for operators was the lack of handsets compatible with gaming. Nokia and Samsung have helped the cause by introducing any number of gaming handsets in recent times. This is not it. Manufacturers are also coming up with gaming championships. Gautam Advani, Multimedia Business Director, Nokia India, says, “N-Gage has helped to grow the size of the market. Previously, a mobile phone was just a communication tool; today it has become a multifunctional device. The challenge really was to create touch-points so that consumers could avail themselves of the new facilities.”

Another concern that is raised from these gaming activities is that of blue-jacking and other illegal activities. This is the reason why most operators are on the guard. “We have some security protocols and measures are being taken to prevent such activities,” Nayar said. Advani does not agree that this is a serious concern. “In India, there isn’t too much of illegal activities. Moreover, these games are protected under IPR. So you cannot copy the games without security access,” he explained.

As of now, Hutch is offering over 800 Java games and Airtel isn’t far behind. Airtel is sourcing these games from multiple game providers, including Indiagames, Mobile2win and IMI mobile. New and innovative games are being introduced every month. Mobile operators have sure found a fun side to doing business and raking it in!

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