Fishlabs abandons operator portals

Going the D2C route... with copy protection

Fishlabs abandons operator portals
German publisher Fishlabs is ditching the operator decks and internet portals in favour of distributing its mobile games direct to consumers, the company has revealed in a plain-speaking blog post.

"We will, for the time being, not develop any new Java mobile games for sale via network operators and Internet portals," it says, while slamming the fact that despite having won numerous awards for its games, "none of this guarantees that high quality and innovation will earn back the expenses of the costly production of such mobile games on the open market, to say nothing of making a profit."

The blog post goes on to list the reasons for this: the fact that even high quality mobile games are sold at a relatively low price; the 50 per cent revenue share kept by the operators and the up to 25 per cent revenue share kept by distributors; poor marketing of mobile games; and the lack of effective copy protection.

"There are roughly ten times as many illegal downloads of our mobile games as legal," claims Fishlabs.

"All of this would not be so serious if these problems had not been known for years. Unfortunately, almost nothing has changed in this regard, and we do not expect there to be fundamental changes in the market for mobile games in the future."

Ouch. Instead, Fishlabs will continue the D2C distribution kickstarted last year with its Rally Master Pro game.

The publisher's next title, Galaxy On Fire 2 (pictured), will be free to download from the Fishlabs website and a few partners, but at a certain point in the game, players will have to unlock the rest for 100,000 myFishlabs credits (the publisher's own virtual currency).

That's around 5.97 Euros in Western European countries, although it's priced lower in emerging markets.

However, as part of that, Fishlabs has confirmed that it will be using copy protection technology in the game to check that players have paid. Every gaming session, the game will connect to the company's server to check that the player has unlocked the game properly.

Fishlabs is clearly keen not to face criticism from players for using this technology, though.

"Of course, honest users consider copy protection to be an imposition. Why should honest buyers have to accept difficulties or even extra costs for a product they have paid for in full?" says the blog post. "The answer is simple: because this product and other like it in the future will not exist if it is too easy to obtain a free (illegal) version and the manufacturer cannot make a profit from their product."

Fishlabs has a carrot for gamers, though - Galaxy On Fire 2 will offer two 'cross upgrades' - allowing players to keep their saved game and registration when upgrading from one handset to another.

What do you think of Fishlabs' strategy of ditching the operator decks and going entirely D2C? Post a comment and let us know.

Contributing Editor

Stuart is a freelance journalist and blogger who's been getting paid to write stuff since 1998. In that time, he's focused on topics ranging from Sega's Dreamcast console to robots. That's what you call versatility. (Or a short attention span.)