Container Run: Monetizing Political Turmoil

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There is a recent trend, of sorts, in Pakistan to capitalize the hype around political events. After years of TV stations improving their ratings through politically charged talk shows, the mobile app industry in the country seems to have jumped on the bandwagon as well. This doesn’t come as a surprise because politics are at the forefront of the public dialogue in the country, a chief source of entertainment, news and discussion topics, all at once.

The first success story for the mobile app industry in Pakistan was the game based on the incident of Gullu Butt smashing cars in public during a political protest. The game, called Gullu, met with a decent amount of success: substantial mainstream as well as social media attention as well as over a 100K downloads on Google Play.

Background politics for Container Run

Container Run is the newest entry into this arena following another political protest which prompted the government to put up containers on entry points to the capital of the country, Islamabad, to stop the protesters from entering the city. The character (called Mr.Khan) is heading towards Islamabad, as confirmed by the road signs around the containers, which signifies the direct reference of the ongoing Long March by Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI).

Game play

The game is similar (identical) to Temple Run in terms of game play, only that the obstacles are containers and the character is a guy wearing a green blazer, white shirt and black pants.

Like Temple Run, the character keeps running and you can either swipe up to jump over the containers or tilt your phone sideways to move the character to either end of the road. The functionality of sliding down is not available and the character jumps whether you swipe up, down, left or right on the screen.

Short-term gains

This trend of using current political events to get attention from the public shows that the mobile app sector in the country is willing to look inwards and design games targeted towards the local population. However, the nature of these games and their connections with current events which will soon be lost to the history makes one think about the life of these games.

Once the long march is over, as a success or failure, the hype around the Container Run game is bound to wear off. It would have made some money through the ads that promptly pop up as the game ends (perhaps too quickly), but it would not be a long lasting venture. The response of the general public in the country to both these political events based games shows that there is a market for mobile games that focus on local sensibilities. Games like this can help game studios gain some popularity and bring more attention to their other, less popular, work. In this case, Value Apps has an array of other apps which might get some more attention thanks to Container Run’s success (more than 10K downloads in a few days).

Local Market Potential

This means that there is potential to make more Pakistan themed games with a focus on topics such as local sports, culture and habits. With a longer time range in mind, more elaborate games can be made that are just meant to be attractive to Pakistanis.

It might be argued that such a venture would be a waste of time as it would be hard to monetize any success within the Pakistani market. I believe that it is a matter of starting off in this direction and paths for monetization will present themselves. For example, if the games are politically neutral, I am sure that telecommunications companies would be happy to work with game developers to host their content or provide payment services for the games. Outside the telco market, games made to support local enterprises or promote their services in an indirect manner, like a game to paint your house (for example) can be supported by leading manufacturers of paint in the country. An example of such an app from the same game studio is the official app of Shaukat Khanum Memorial Cancer Hospital and Research Centre.

The startup culture in the country has been focused around mobile apps and web-based solutions and it would be nice to see more of these focused on the local market. The local market is hungry for content and in a largely unexplored sector there will be multiple opportunities to create, innovate and make money.

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