What are carriers thinking?
In the North American mobile gaming world, carriers have all the power. So when they decide to speak out on the state of the industry, it’s worthwhile to listen to what they’re saying. Here are some thoughts on Sprint’s mobile keynote at the AGC.
Jason Ford, GM of Games and Entertainment for Sprint believes that the mobile industry is at a tipping point: that people are ready to see their mobile devices as more than phones, and are therefore ready to buy wireless content. But Sprint’s main man for gaming was also quick to note in his speech that the industry is still very immature, stating that gamers are not actively looking for information on new games, and the ones that they’re finding aren’t meeting their expectations.
A recent NPD report commissioned by Sprint showed that 55% of gamers stop playing a game because of lack of interest, while 31% stop because of poor game quality. Sprint showed that they are also keenly aware of the disparity in opinion between mobile gaming sites and users: average user reviews for some games were in some cases 30% lower than on the mobile gaming sites.
This was a refreshing start to the keynote; the mobile industry is having growing pains and the carriers are showing that they recognize it.
But when it came to addressing developer concerns about the limited space on carrier decks, as well as the carrier’s monopoly on content downloads, Ford remained very glib. Although he expressed an interest in developing new distribution channels, when asked about developers’ perception of carriers he said, “I think the perception is that if you’re not on board, you’re very critical. Hey, it’s a distribution channel.”
So I decided to ask Jason Ford after his speech if a possible way to appease developers and encourage new distribution channels would be carriers dropping the walled garden around their networks, allowing for direct to consumer purchasing from developers. After replying that a download censorship is actually beneficial (because less noise means more purchases off the carrier’s deck and therefore more revenue for everyone), he mentioned that Sprint had already started to develop relationships with certain online download sites.
I take it that this means that carriers are willing to open up new distribution channels, but only if they can control them. Meanwhile, developers have to “get on board” and stop being so critical of their inability to offer their product directly to consumers. Those crazy developers, when will they learn?