June 8, 2011

GigaOm

WildTangent plans rental service for Android games

We’ve chronicled the state of Android development and the various solutions aimed at helping the developer community squeeze more money out of their apps on the platform. Game developers in particular have had trouble making as much money as they see on iOS . The latest problem-fixer is gaming service WildTangent, which is opening up a rental service later this year that will allow Android users to rent games and apply their fees toward purchases.

It may sound a little funny renting apps that often don’t cost more than $1. But it’s another tool for developers, who are now able to see if there is a market for games that perhaps might not merit full price at first but could entice people with a one-day rental. And it can also work as a way to minimize risk for consumers, who can try out a title for a quarter before electing to pay for the whole game.

WildTangent, which operates a gaming service for HP , Dell and other PC makers, believes it can make the rental service work by bringing over its gaming partners and marrying their titles with a new business model for mobile that hasn’t been tried much on smartphones. Vodafone launched a monthly game rental service in Europe last October but that was a subscription service, not individual rentals. WildTangent said it will launch with T-Mobile later this summer and is looking to sign up other carrier partners.

The way it will work is Android users will need to directly download a WildTangent Games app from WildTangent, similar to how Amazon users download the Amazon Appstore for Android, or they’ll be able to get the app through T-Mobile, which will pre-load the app on future phones. The app will feature a catalog where users can choose to rent a title using WildCoins, WildTangent’s currency. Users will be able to get a 24-hour rental of an app for as little as one coin, which generally is worth 25 cents. When the game expires, a user can choose to keep playing by using another coin. If a player ever chooses to buy the app, their rental costs are applied to their purchase.

WildTangent is also bringing over its BrandBoost feature which allows gamers to rent a title or obtain an in-app item by watching a video from an advertiser. That will also be a help for developers, giving them another way to monetize and get their apps out to consumers, especially ones who don’t have the ability to pay by a credit card or prefer not to.

The entry by WildTangent in Android gaming adds another store for consumers, who may be getting dizzy at the growing number options available to them. And the fact that it will likely require a separate download directly from WildTangent may limit how many people are aware of the service and try it out. Also, having to use WildCoins could add another layer of complexity for new users who are not familiar with WildTangent.

But there is some promise in this service because it taps into an existing community of gamers that WildTangent said is more than 100 million strong. That means many gamers are already familiar with WildCoins, which they will be able to use for Android titles. And WildTangent also has a strong stable of publishing partners including Disney, Nickelodeon, Ubisoft, Activision, THQ, Capcom and others so it may help encourage them to bring more games over to Android.

And perhaps most importantly, it creates another way for people to consume paid games. Not everyone wants to buy a title outright, just like they don’t want to own every movie they see. But they do want access to quality games and may find the rent-to-own model attractive. And many Android developers would love to have more options to monetize their games besides paid downloads and in-game advertising. That’s why we’re seeing more pay-per install incentivized campaigns being run. We still have to see how things turn out when WildTangent launches but it could be another tool in helping Android developers unlock more dollars from the platform.