How much would you pay for a quality mobile game like Townsmen 3, Beershooter or Townsmen Racing? Five pounds? Three pounds?
How about nothing at all?
Well, that will soon be the price of a mobile blowout at German developer HandyGames, with the developer revealing its making 28 of its games available for free.
Instead of charging for download, the company is incorporating advertising into its titles by working with specialist agency Greystripe's AdWRAP advertising network. It's the largest deal Greystripe has brokered to date.
"People who are still new to playing games on their phones will be more willing to experiment with free games rather than risk disappointment with a $3 to $12 download," said Greystripe CEO Michael Chang. "HandyGames sees our ad-supported model as the way to make mobile games profitable, and we think the AdWRAP network will increase consumer access and excitement about playing mobile games,"
He could well be right. Even with Pocket Gamer directing you to the best mobile games, we all know buying them can be a pain. The question will be whether the ad bombardment will be even harder to take than the previous hit on your wallet?
Right now, we don't know. The free games are going to be available to 'consumers worldwide', we're told, but there's no specifics on dates. You could keep an eye on the HandyGames website, although there's no further details on there yet either.
AdWRAP is designed to be a do-it-all advertising network, blending the best of mobile marketing, viral promotion and advergaming. Greystripe boasts it provides advertisers with unique targeting, while at the same time subsidising free games for consumers with non-intrusive, opt-in advertising.
The HandyGames titles selling out are: Jan Michaelis Snowboarding, Flowboarding, Penalty, Bowling, Amy's Adventure, Pirates Ahoy, Apache Warrior, Adventure Boy in Zooloo Land, Bomber Pilot, 1941: Frozen Front, 1942: Deadly Desert, Spellboys, Townsmen, Townsmen 2, Townsmen 3, Townsmen Racing, Space Guerillas, Ancient Ruins 1, Ancient Ruins 2, Ancient Ruins 3, Ancient Ruins 4, Aces Of 1916, 1805: French Empire, Beershooter, Slot Machine, Slot Racing, AA Flak 8.8 and Atlantis 2097.
"We're excited to introduce a collection of our most popular mobile games to a wider audience and give consumers free access to mobile entertainment," said Christopher Kassulke, CEO of HandyGames. "Greystripe has found a revolutionary way for the mobile gaming industry to move to a new level and help game publishers open up new revenue streams."
So is advertising the future for mobile games? Some think so – revenues predicted to grow to $732 million by 2010, up from $56 million in 2005, according to the Yankee Group.
And if great games are available for free, it will be hard for other mobile publishers to keep charging. But not impossible – think, for instance, of Sky charging despite the existence of the free BBC and the ad-supported ITV networks.
Even if the HandyGames experiment goes well, we'd therefore expect there always to be a core of premium games that are only available to those who stump up cold, hard cash – at least for an initial period. But you can be sure we'll be watching developments in the free games world with the interest only poor Internet journalists can muster.