The substantial majority of mobile entertainment launches to-date, particularly those with major marketing campaigns behind them, have focused on bringing existing brands into the wireless business. This is a logical and prudent approach from the mobile entertainment companies: when venturing in to unfamiliar territory, it makes sense to capitalise on existing assets, such as affiliation with a particular brand or experience, thereby reducing the risk associated with developing and launching a title.
There are numerous examples: ‘Who Wants to be a Millionare?’ and ‘Tomb Raider’ are often cited. Player X is one of the companies which has been most active in bringing existing brands into the mobile space, including its most recent launch of the classic TV gameshow, Blockbusters. It also has X Factor, Premiership rights in several markets outside the UK and cartoon characters Wallace and Gromit.
Implicit in this approach is the need to balance the user’s desire for consitency of experience with factors which take advantage of the unique characteristcs of mobile technology. This is not immediately obvious in many of the offerings already on the market. They tend to rely too much on the brand equity, hoping users will buy simply because they see a name with which they are familiar. This may be an effective way of selling to first time users, but they are unlikely to become repeat customers if their initial experience with mobile entertainment dissappoints.
Blockbusters, however, is a good choice. The combination of quiz questions and visual elements, along with exceptionally strong brand awareness (particularly in the UK), make it ideally suited to mobile. Player X is demonstrating an ability to understand which brands represent the best opportunities in mobile.
We are yet to see the emergence of a high profile ‘pure’ mobile entertainment brand, a title which has been designed from the ground-up to appeal to mobile users and take full advantage of the mobile environment. Part of this has to do with the risk elements I talked about, but I am confident it will happen at some point in the future. Early attempts will likely be frustrated by the reluctance among operators to support anything they are unfamiliar with (i.e. an existing brand), but with the growth of off-portal distribution and the increasing influence of the creative companies behind mobile gaming, it cannot be far off.