Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Pac-Man on your Smartphone? Ghosts are Chasing Your Game Download

Remember Bad Idea Jeans? That's what came to mind after TechCrunch told me Namco is releasing classic arcade games for AT&T smartphones, and I checked it out.

Pac-Man on my Blackjack is not a bad idea at all. But here's the ordering page:

Notice you can choose how many copies you want to but, but not whether you want "Download Protection" ... Interesting .. My downloads have never been injured before. I wonder why I need protection? If you click the protection link, you get this popup:

This is obnoxious on so many levels. And no, I'm not complaining about the money. The problems are these:

First, the market for off-deck software for mobile devices is in its infancy. While the general population is slowly realizing that the phone is a computer and can run programs (if the iPhone does nothing else, its TV spots will help communicate this fact), most folks have still never installed an off-deck app, let alone paid for one.

The smartphone users are at the vanguard, the evangelists that get their friends and companies onto mobile apps. So why even suggest that the software downloads are any different from a PC software download? Why suggest there's some special problem with mobile software, so you'd better pay $3 for "insurance" in case your stuff gets screwed up?

At this market's stage of maturity, users need to be told that if they're ready to start buying mobile apps, there is no risk, and the vendor will do 100% whatever it takes to make sure the software is available in case a device gets broken, hard reset, etc. Compare the early days of e-commerce: a number of companies promised extraordinary customer service to overcome anxieties about returns, using credit cards online, etc.

The second problem is that it undermines the whole idea of software sales as IP licenses. If I've bought a permanent license to Pac-Man for my device, why does it cost $3 to make sure I can download it again later? Is the $14.99 for a conditional license, that only gives me the right to use the app until such time as my device gets reset? Then $3 buys me a permanent license? Of course this is absurd.

Bottom line: if Namco want another $3, just call it a handling fee, or a one-time provisioning fee, or just toss it into the price. My downloads don't need protection.


Jamie Flournoy said...

MOOSE: That's a very nice Pac-Man game you have there on your smartphone.

ROCCO: Yeah, nice. Pac-man. Wakka wakka.

MOOSE: It would be a shame, if anything was to, er, uh... "happen" to it.

ROCCO: Unfortunate. Yeah.

MOOSE: It just so happens that we offer a service to "protect" your

ROCCO: Yeah, you're lucky you got us to help youse.

(MOOSE writes the number 3 on a slip of paper and hands it to CUSTOMER)

MOOSE: This is the amount of money it will cost you for our protection.

ROCCO: Yeah. A good deal.

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