The news of Rovio partnering with Idea to introduce carrier billing made headlines in the gaming industry and could trigger the long awaited monetisation vehicle, which has been stuck in limbo with Google, Apple and telecom operators for years now.
Speaking exclusively to AnimationXpress.com, Rovio Entertainment, country director (India and South Asia), Anurag Sachedeva explained about the deal and how this could benefit the industry on the whole.
“We are something like the audience we appeal to and wanted to find a perfect partner for our carrier billing feature. It was purely a function of what kind of customer are we looking for and who is more interested in gaming as a platform. Idea is one of the fastest data operators right now, so it was a good fit for us, although Idea doesn’t have exclusivity for carrier billing for us. So, for the start it is Idea for some time and we will be expanding to other operators soon.”
Angry Birds Classic and Angry Birds 2.0 are the two games which have hit the bull’s eye for Rovio and the biggest game for the Finnish gaming company. The portal will be the host to these two games and the studio will be expanding the portfolio later.
The feature is currently live for Idea employees, who have started testing various iterations to iron of the bugs before the portal goes live next week for the consumers.
Idea, GM, Parag Modi, said, “Idea was always keen to make it a gaming destination for its customers and align with leading as well as indie developers to allow operator billing. Till the time Google Play billing happens, India will always be a place for maximum downloads and minimum revenues. So, for easy revenue flow, carrier billing needs to start and that is how the partnership between Rovio and Idea happened.”
Carrier billing has been implemented in more than 35 countries on Google Play Store and has proved to be profitable in developing countries like Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam.
Parag further added, “India did not have that option of in-app purchases through carrier billing and that is the simplest mechanism for a country like India currently. India has already been introduced to internet purchasing via Flipkart and Amazon and soon we could see similar engagement for digital spends as well.”
Fortumo has also been instrumental in the Rovio – Idea deal and is the billing partner for the Angry Birds’ company globally.
“We were evaluating a lot of billing partners and Fortumo fit the bill. The whole idea was to have a common SDK for dealing with operators. We can take the same SDK to other operators, so that the game does not change drastically.”
Merchandising and Licensing is another big revenue stream for Angry Birds and Dream Theatre is the merchandise partner for Rovio in India and it seems the company is pleased with its partner.
What began as a mobile games company, has furiously flown away in different directions to explore various avenues be it animation, toys, comics and now an animation film.
“Our company DNA is all about delighting customers and I firmly believe that we are in the business of delighting consumers and for us consumers come first. And today in less than 6 years we have achieved such success because of our consumers. You won’t find any other small screen brand that has the same recall value like us. We are the largest downloaded entertainment brand with more than 3 billion times. And in India we have been downloaded more than 100 million times and with the smartphone penetration on the rise, these numbers are bound to spike up further.”
He added, “For us, we call ourselves an entertainment company while keeping gaming at heart. But the new movie, Angry Birds Movie is for our consumers as they want to know why the birds are angry, they want to see the story behind the game.”
Carrier billing is something that developers in India have been desperately wanting, but the tiff between App Stores and telecom operators is something that needs to give way. Till then, individual deals like this, will earn developers an opportunity for better monetisation for their games. But, will such individual deals put App Stores out of work?
“Nobody knows the answer, we are also experimenting. Apple and Google still remain as key strategic partners and we are not saying we are moving away, we are merely trying to test the carrier billing option and figure if it works in the Indian market.”
Apart from carrier billing, rewarding is another way developers are luring customers, and Rovio along with Idea too is working on something similar.
“A lot of brands come and they want to compliment the consumers and pay on their behalf. This is something that is working very well in India. So, now when you play the game on the Idea portal, it’s not just the carrier billing that they are doing, even on Google Play Store, you can interact with the brand when you launch the app, with Idea having a brand presence inside the app as well,” expounds Anurag.
With the introduction of Rs 10 apps, India has now been exposed to buying premium content but limited to lower price range. And with the initiation of sachet pricing, maybe in-app purchases too may pick up in the country.
“The sachet pricing is going to be just a reduction in the proportion of the benefit. So for example, if someone was paying a dollar and getting 60 units, instead here say if you are paying 1/10th of the dollar, you will get 1/10th of the benefit. India is known for sachet pricing, so what we are saying is that, if you are not able to pay for the full benefit, instead pay a little less and enjoy the benefit in pieces.”
Localisation for international gaming brands within the country has been the go to flavour these days and Rovio already having a partnership with Kunlun in China, the company is looking for someone to give the Indian flavour to the ever so Angry creatures.
“These are early days. We firmly believe that localisation is the key to success in some of the important markets. We tested our hypothesis in certain markets like China and with Angry Birds 2.0 what we did was, we kept the core concept of the game same and added Chinese elements to it. So similarly, we would love to partner with someone who could make the same game but add an Indian flavour to it.”
“I have a clear mandate when I took over in August that I am setting the next nest in the region. We are focused and have seen the surge in the numbers and with this carrier billing deal, we should soon be able to build the nest for the birds in India.”