Vodacom quietly launched a mobile gaming platform – and would like you to pay R100 a month to play games you can get for free
7 June 2019
The new Playinc.com website does not exactly trumpet its association with Vodacom; unless you read the terms and conditions you could miss entirely that it is a Vodacom service.
Likewise, when Vodacom this week told the world that Playinc had launched, it did so in very understated fashion. The site received a single mention in Vodacom's 60-page booklet containing its annual financial results, which read in full: "our gaming platform PlayInc. has now been launched."
Vodacom CEO Shameel Joosub did not expand on that when he presented those results to investors, even though "digital content platforms" is listed as Vodacom's number four key strategic pillar, right after financial services and ahead of having the best technology.
Even though Playinc, with its slick website promising "personalized gaming feed with user stats and recommendations for mobile games, gaming news and videos" has the makings of a major initiative.
And even though the idea of a mobile gaming subscription platform is a hot one right now, with Apple's "Netflix for games" in the iPhone due to launch soon.
Such a quiet launch may have something to do with the fact that, although Vodacom says it has big plans for Playinc, the platform's value for money proposition right now is highly debatable.
Anyone with a cellphone number can set up a profile on Playinc, and that specifically includes users of MTN, Telkom, and Cell C. In future, the site's terms and conditions warn, non-Vodacom subscribers may be locked out of some features or even be booted from the platform entirely, but there is no sign of any walled-off sections yet.
During registration you get to select your favourite genres of game, and pick a couple of your favourite games so that the recommendation system can get to know you a little better.
That is about as far as the free service goes, however. To play any of the games, or at least any of the dozens we checked, you have to pay up, either R5 per day or R25 per week, for a total of between R100 and R150 a month.
R100 is relatively big money for Vodacom's customers. In the year to the end of March, the financial results it released this week show, the average Vodacom prepaid customer generated R54 in revenue for the company. In other words, a Playinc subscription would represent double to triple the average those customers spend on airtime and data.
The subscription does, Playinc promises, offer the ability to play as many of its more than 2,000 titles for free, as often as you like. But you could do much the same thing without paying.