Exent is one of the world’s top on-demand distributors of online and mobile games, with more than 2,000 PC and mobile titles from 150 publishers on its GameTanium platform, accessed by two million subscribers. GameTanium Mobile for Android was launched in July 2011, with GameTanium for Tablets due soon.

With the practice of paid-for mobile games becoming less common as developers pursue the freemium model – in which games are acquired for free but offer players opportunities to upgrade the game or access other services for payment – Exent’s subscription route offers another approach to monetisation.

In addition to its own-brand services, the company also offers a white-label platform used by operators such as T-Mobile, Telstra and Verizon, and GameTreat, which allows website owners to integrate Exent games into their sites for free, using an ad-supported model. It also offers the FreeRide ad-supported service for PC games.

In an exclusive interview with Mobile Apps Briefing, Exent CEO Zvi Levgoren (pictured) discusses monetisation, convergence and the power of Android.

Exploiting Android’s openness
Exent decided early on that Android was the best mobile platform to start developing on due to its relative openness. This not only helped reduce the time to get the GameTanium platform to market, but also made it easier to integrate different payment methods.

Although GameTanium uses a subscription model – or “frictionless monetisation” as Levgoren refers to it – operators using the white-label version of the platform are interested in other payment options for customers.

Android also enables it to offer services without the need to work with an additional platform partner, such as Apple or Microsoft, which often exert tough control over the channel to customers.

“On Android, we can serve and sync with any number of monetisation methods. Since we manage our services mainly for major telcos, we followed their lead and went around the models that were closed to them.  Android allows us to power the service in conjunction with our partners, without a platform owner in the middle,” Levgoren said.

He explained that Exent allows game publishers to monetise “every minute of game play” through the various payment options it offers, meaning they can secure regularly-recurring long-tail revenue from the word go. “We monetise fun,” Levgoren added.

Despite the benefits using Android brings, Levgoren admitted that the platform is more fragmented than either Exent or its partners expected.

The importance of good partners
Because Exent has been around for 20 years, it has long-standing content partnerships with some of the biggest games companies – including Alawar, Popcap, Real and Ubisoft – giving it an extensive games catalogue and the trusted relationships that make it attractive to operators.

“Going forward, as we add mobile to our service, we are tapping these trusted relationships to monetise their mobile content as well. Popcap, Real, and Alawar are among our long time PC partners, and they trust us to grow their mobile game revenues going forward,” Levgoren said.

Levgoren also feels that as gameplay increasingly shifts to mobile devices in the future, partnerships with operators “should yield significantly more revenue” for Exent.

From mobile to desktop: convergence at work
The biggest challenge for Exent and similar companies is keeping up with where people are playing games. “As game play moves away from the PC to phones and tablets, Exent needs to extend its platform to cover these devices, while continuing to source quality content for these devices,” Levgoren noted.

This creates challenges when working with platforms that do not have a great deal of content or which have content which is difficult to deliver.  Although Levgoren said Exent believes in games created natively for devices, some platforms require alternative solutions that need to be accepted by users. The fragmented nature of Android also means different approaches are sometimes needed within the same OS.

Exent’s R&D operations produce intellectual property and patents focused on delivering content to as many types of screens as possible. “We will continue to develop these technologies to benefit operator partners, publishers, as well as players,” Levgoren said.

The company plans to link all of the different gaming platforms – PC, mobile, tablet and TV –  in a single subscription model for GameTanium during 2012, meaning they can seamlessly switch between device without ending their game.

“Exent’s vision is to provide consumers with the greatest gaming experience, anywhere they wish to be entertained,” Levgoren said. However, the coordination with operator sales and marketing departments needed to make this possible will take time, the Exent CEO warned.

The company is currently integrating its technology with telecoms and wireless business units with a number of “major partners,” with formal announcements due when integrations are completed.

Exent’s mobile future
Exent sees mobile as “a huge growth opportunity” for its future plans. “As our audiences increasingly consume more entertainment on mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets, Exent will be there for them with our mobile and tablet games offerings under our GameTanium Mobile brand,” commented Levgoren.

And Android will remain an important development platform for Exent. Levgoren said Google’s OS is “particularly promising given its constant state of evolution,” and expects developers to focus more on the platform in the near future, with the addition of tablets and eventually TVs likely to generate a greater amount of premium content.

But Exent is also considering other platforms for the future. “Exent is working with as many platform operators as we can to sell in and integrate our services.  If a platform has a billing relationship with users, Exent is interested in selling them our solution,” Levgoren said.

Meanwhile, as mobile platforms mature, there will also be opportunities for Exent’s ad-supported offerings – FreeRide Games and GamesTreat – to move into the mobile space as well.

Tim Ferguson