Niantic chief champions actual (not augmented) reality with direct carrier billing

Credit: GSMA

In a show driven by senseless hype, Niantic CEO John Hanke shockingly spent his MWC keynote talking about sensible, boring, direct carrier billing

A consensus seems to be forming that the recent MWC17 in Barcelona was actually some weird virtual reality experience. Real reality seemed to have left the building. Even the hype was being hyped (presumably to keep investors investing until the hype becomes reality).

Among the over-hyped hype, however, was one small note of sanity. Oddly, it came from a game based in augmented reality. It was a presentation by the man whose company designed Pokemon Go.

John Hanke, CEO of Niantic, creator of Pokemon Go was probably expecting an audience of thousands, standing ovations and certainly more than the tiny mentions he got in the press.

The trouble is that what he wanted to talk about was billing.

Specifically, direct carrier billing.

Billing is, for many, boring. But among the tsunami of marketing swill, it fell to a games developer to point out one solid, proper, easy to execute opportunity for operators.

We know, because we have read and written about it, a lot. A ‘one-click’ in-app purchase increases conversion rates by a huge percentage – about 80% according to some. Any more than one click is one click too many, so says direct carrier billing specialist Bango.

Hanke believes that carrier billing has “only scratched the surface” and wants more operators to adopt it, so that he can get into more markets and operators can reap the rewards.

Pokemon Go has made good headway, partnering with Reliance Jio – a genuinely innovative telco – as well as Sprint and Globe, who sponsor the game so that their stores are places where you can find the Pokemons.

We pointed out some time ago that the gloss seemed to have come off carrier billing. Telefonica have stopped making any noticeable noise about their BlueVia offering, but at the time they launched, it was going to take over the world.

The other element of the Pokemon Go opportunity is location. Hanke wants to improve location based services such as mapping and beacons as these, too, will reduce churn and increase operators’ revenues.

Thus the irony is complete. That the maker of a virtual reality game – at a show where real reality had disappeared – should promote a solid, boring opportunity for operators is priceless.

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