HandyGames' Christopher Kassulke on how operators can save their failing game portals
Until a few years ago, the main distribution channels for mobile phone games were the download portals of network operators but, in recent years, the market has shifted dramatically towards OS-specific app stores.
Currently less than 2 percent of network operator customers download games from the operators' download portals and even less are willing to pay for downloads. While network operators have been competing with each other for market share, they've been largely unsuccessful in increasing the utilisation of their download platforms relative to their customer base.
There are many reasons for why network operators have failed to increase market volume.
In some cases, the download portals have remained more or less unchanged since the early days of mobile gaming at the beginning of the century. In other cases, the purchasing process is burdened with complex and arcane payment systems that aren't particularly user-friendly.
Most importantly, the quality of the offered games and apps is often lacking, to the point where there is a distinct disconnect between the network operator's brand image and the quality of its download portal.
The download portal often does not meet the customers' expectations of a service that carries the network operator's brand.
Only triple-A need applyOffering quantity is what the big app stores already do sufficiently well.
I'd argue the download portals of network operators should accommodate the demand for a more focused selection of apps and games that have been screened for quality -curation of a market, rather than saturation.
Making users feel the download portal provides good guidance when it comes to quality content is an important factor in turning users into returning customers.
This, by itself, is not enough, though. The first step is to offer users something they actually want and what users want is FREE content.
The facts are unambiguous; 98 percent of all app downloads are free. Unless there is a strong line-up of free quality content, most potential customers will simply ignore a download portal or app store.
Weve focussed on this model at HandyGames by making our titles free and ad-supported, whilst including the option to refer the user back to the download portal via in-game links and in-app purchase functionality.
We think this offers the network operator a second chance to sell paid-for content on their download portal or app store; in our experience free games increase downloads substantially, paid-for or not.
Growing the marketOf course, network operators may argue that offering free content decreases demand for paid content, threatening their bottom line. This may be true now, but the long-term survival of their app stores ultimately depends on giving the customers what they want and the customers want free content - free games in particular.
If they dont get them, theyll go elsewhere or stop downloading until they change device.
Free content may dominate the download charts, but many users are still willing to pay for good content, but in order to sell anything at all, the networks operators first have to manage to attract users to their download portals - or else the money will continue to be spent elsewhere.
Free content is the best way to achieve this.
Founded in 2000, HandyGames is a cross platform publisher, focused particularly on mobile, iOS and Android platforms. Its title Guns'n'Glory was voted second best mobile game of the year at the 2011 Pocket Gamer Readers' Choice Awards, behind Angry Birds.
You can find more information about HandyGames via its website.