Part of me – the naughty little boy part of me – was itching to make today’s blog an April Fool’s number, a kind of wireless equivalent of the Panorama spaghetti trees and the wonderful tropical archipelago of San Seriffe. But then the other part of me – the older, killjoy part - pointed out to its mischievous younger sibling that blogs being blogs, there is the remote chance that someone might believe it, and then they report it at face value in their blog, and the next thing you know, you have to spend the rest of the day on the phone explaining that, no, Vodafone haven’t introduced a Naked Thursday, or that there isn’t an app that can recognize when you’ve had too much to drink and simultaneously deadlocks your car and books you a taxi. But despite the older, killjoy part of me winning the April Fool’s argument, the little boy part gets to talk about mobile games. Orange, you see, has just launched Playtomo
, which is "a social gaming service allowing all UK customers to play games for free and share the fun with friends through social networking sites on their mobile phones". Playtomo is an application which integrates into social networks – well, just Facebook at present; once you’ve gone to Playtomo’s site and connected it to Facebook, you download the app – all 1.5MB of it – to your handset and, lo and behold, you have access to a dozen games (more promised) which you can then (if you so choose) download to your handset: scores achieved in these games can then be posted to Facebook, along with challenges to your Facebook friends. Helping you through this installation process is an animated (in both senses of the word) old chap who offers advice on what you can get from Playtomo and how to access it. Firstly, as Orange says, it’s all free to end users (not just Orange customers, but those of all networks), but of course will be ad supported. Secondly, the fact that Orange has offered Playtomo is emblematic of the fact that network operators are breaking away from the "games live in this silo, social networks live in that silo" approach; realizing that we live in a Mobile Web 2.0 world (as my colleague Ian Chard has pointed out, a Mobile Social Web 2.0 world
) and that one of the best ways to get products discovered (and potentially monetized) is to make Joe Public integral to the marketing campaign by telling his mates about it. Thirdly, the game I chose to download was Fruity Raccoon: unfortunately I still haven’t played it because the 3G signal dropped out while it was installing, and so I can’t tell you how well (or badly) I did at it. (One feels that at this point the animated old chap should come on with a few choice words for the network operator for spoiling his fun, but sadly this did not occur.) And while from my perspective this at least saves face, this isn’t such good news for the network operators. We come back, as we always do, to the issue of network coverage: unless you enable consumers to access services as and when they want to, then for each occasion when they’re trying to download an app, or watching mobile TV, and the coverage drops out, then consumers will be less likely to engage with content in the future – particularly if that consumer has been faced with an tricky access/installation process in the first instance. Integrated content services are clearly the right way to go, but the network technology underpinning those services sometimes fails to deliver, and this is an issue that must, repeat must, be addressed; coverage in rural areas, on trains, even in built-up inner cities, simply has to be enhanced. Now then. Did I mention Vodafone’s Naked Thursday earlier on?