Matthias Sala is the CEO of Gbanga, a location aware gaming experience for smartphones. He will attending the Broadband World Forum 2012 as part of a panel discussing “The Ascendance of the App – Uncovering the Successes and Opportunities for Growth.” We catch up with him to discuss he views on how improved mobile broadband will enhance applications such as Gbanga.
There are some big names in location-based applications right now: FourSquare, Gowalla and Facebook Places. How is yours different from the pack?
Gbanga’s first mission is to entertain the player; it is not about sharing location. Gbanga entertains in everyday life. Gbanga is a game in the first place and location-based as an enriching element for the game experience. It transforms a normal ride to work or school into a fun and intriguing virtual battle for the domain of your real-world.
In Gbanga, you become part of an immersive story; you dive into a world that is entertaining. Players walk even in heavy rain to play the game outside. That sort of engagement is really what we are looking for. The concepts of Foursquare, Gowalla and Facebook Places are information utilities to share location with friends that engage users by rewarding points. This is certainly useful for many practical reasons. But it is not necessarily excitingly fun and entertaining in the traditional sense games should be.
A more concrete metaphor could be that Gbanga is like playing and watching football – extremely fun. Foursquare, Gowalla and Facebook Places are news shows that are well produced and beautifully designed, but are not as entertaining as a football game.
How much more potential is there is the location based services market. What are the monetisation possibilities?
At Gbanga, we believe that location is only the first step towards a player-centric world where products and services are built around the player. Imagine tailor-made movies and sounds that have been dynamically created to respect your taste and preferences. People are going to like this sort of content more and would be happy to spend money on it. Good content has value!
What is the impact that further broadband growth could have on a service or applications such as Gbanga?
Today, our player’s experience is affected by the speeds of different network technologies. There are many situations where GPRS connections occur and our system needs to fall back to a higher compressed and more efficient data transmission management. The future looks bright with LTE/4G, not only because of the speed, but most prominently because of the low latency. Latency is dramatically important for real-time multi-player games like Gbanga. We have explained the impact of the Long Term Evolution (LTE/4G) in our blog.
What exciting opportunities do you see for Gbanga from the proliferation of smart devices?
We started in the time before smartphones – Gbanga first ran on feature phones with J2ME. What we have seen is that players get more used to mobile apps and to mobile games. Five years ago that was different. People were not aware that phones are computers that can run software applications. So, we are looking forward to a future where all phone owners are used to installing and using apps on their phones. Then more people can play Gbanga and we can entertain more people.
What are the major challenges that you expect to face in the next two years?
I think it is cell phone platform fragmentation. Different operating systems, many different versions and a number of different screen sizes are challenging for efficient development and maintenance of apps. Some sort of solution is mobile HTML5. However, there are performance issues. The browsers need to get faster, the player experience better and the payment channel more appealing to players. At the moment, entering payment details in a mobile website is dodgy.
What are you hoping to get out of your attendance at the Broadband World Forum?
The conference features very interesting talks and attracts some of the most influential individuals in the mobile world.
The Broadband World Forum 2012 is taking place on the 16 – 18 October 2012 at the RAI Exhibition and Convention Centre, Amsterdam, the Netherlands. Click here now to register your interest.