packet fees: boon or bane for mobile multiplayer games

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I found this fascinating article on mobenta. Being a fan of multiplayer games(mobile) and a big believer in their potential – like everyone else I thought Japan was the place to be for mobile multiplayer games. Not so it seems. (and I am happy to know that my yearly pilgrimage to Korea is well founded!)

Matthew Bellows says on Mobenta/WGR

Then he (the SEGA rep in Japan) conceded that only a couple thousand people had registered for the

service. The primary reason? Packet fees. Mobile data transmission in Japan

is ludicrously expensive. Sending one megabyte over the Vodafone

Japan network costs approximately $22.18, (although discounts will

be offered for higher-volume customers). As Mr. Ikeda from Hudson

Soft put it, “We would like to have a networked version of

Bomberman, but data transmission fees are a big problem. Players

discover their $400 phone bill at the end of the month and call us

for a refund. So many people were angry that we stopped making

network games.” Satomi Imai at Dwango expressed the hope that flat-

rate data plans would come to Japan with widespread 3G, and those

plans would enable customers to spend more time connected. But

Square Enix, while announcing Final Fantasy for DoCoMo FOMA phones,

made it clear that these were single player games. Square isn’t

building price drops into their development plan.

Contrast Japan with South Korea. Per megabyte fees for data

transmission are approximately $2.69 on LG Telecom and $4.49 with

KTF. Even more interestingly, Com2Us reported this week that

operators share as much as 60% of the data revenue associated with

multiplayer mobile games with the game developer. As you would

expect, mobile multiplayer games, from traditional card games to

massively multiplayer RPGs, are booming in Korea.

We in Europe have yet to cross this bridge – but it provides insightful lessons. Everyone loses if rates are not oriented to making people pay. People will recieve a $400 only once!

Once again, it shows why Korea is the one to watch

Image source: wgamer