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More than a game.

Online games are big business for the mobile phone networks. According to the world's biggest, Vodafone, subscribers to its Live! data service downloaded three million games within the first nine months of its global launch. Each of those games was a paid-for download.

The limitations of mobile phones, even with colour screens and 3G data speeds, means that they will never be a platform for serious gamers. Instead, mobile subscribers are likely to play what one expert calls "stupid" games: relatively unsophisticated, low bandwidth programs sold for a small charge. A far bigger market could be for free downloads.

Vodafone UK tried free games downloads last Christmas, with the view that once subscribers had tried the free game, they would come back for more. And according to Rikard Ljungman, games manager at the Hutchison-backed 3 in Sweden, sponsored or free games downloads are on the agenda there too.

The idea of consumer brands teaming up with software developers and online services is not new. A number of innovative companies have used 'viral marketing' to drive traffic to their web sites, for example by distributing games content or video clips.

Co-branding is also being used to persuade consumers to try online transactions. Perhaps the most noteworthy recent example was a joint Apple/Pepsi promotion where consumers buying the soft drink could download free tracks from Apple's i-Tunes music store.

Something similar could even provide a shot in the arm for mobile commerce, which has yet to take off. "People are already paying for services such as games and ring tones. It gets them comfortable with the notion of using their phones to pay for other services, such as concert or cinema tickets," says IDC analyst Paolo Pescatore.
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Title Annotation:online games on mobile phones are big business
Publication:Information Age (London, UK)
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Jun 10, 2004
Previous Article:Secure devices.
Next Article:WiFi hot spots.

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