TransGaming CEO & President Vikas Gupta has a message for the Rokus and LGs of this world: Step up your game. TransGaming announced Tuesday morning that it is developing a video game version of the World Poker Tour, delivered TVs around the world this fall.
But the company won’t be using over-the-top platforms and Smart TV app stores like the ones you will find on a streaming media set-top box or a connected TV. Instead, TransGaming is partnering with traditional operators to deliver the World Poker Tour game to IP-enabled set-top boxes through its own GameTree TV platform. One of its pay TV partners is French telco Free; the company is going to announce its U.S. partnerships later this summer.
World Poker Tour will allow poker fans to play against each other, whether they’re in the same room or halfway around the world. Users will use second screen devices for their hands of cards, and friends will be able to invite each other into their own rooms. “It’s gonna make the consumer feel like they’re actually playing in a World Poker Tour tournament,” Gupta told me during phone call Monday.
So why not just launch the whole service on an over-the-top platform? One benefit of going the service provider route is that those companies have millions more users, another is that they’re offering billing services. The World Poker Tour game will come with some premium components, and customers will find those charges added to their monthly cable bill. But for Gupta, it’s also about picking the right allies. “We need to work with the service providers so that we are not seen as competition,” he said.
Speaking of competition: Gupta thinks CE makers seriously need to up the ante to get consumers excited about casual gaming and other Smart TV killer apps. For that, it needs a kind of iPhone moment. A breakout star that is leading the pack and setting standards. That simply hasn’t happened yet in the TV space. “The industry is not evolving in one particular direction,” Gupta said. And the result? Experiences that don’t click with consumers. “You can’t have these kinds of low-quality app stores on your devices,” he complained.
Proving that quality works is one of the things that TransGaming wants to achieve with the World Poker Tour game, Gupta told me. However, the game itself is still in development, so we won’t actually know if TransGaming will succeed – or if it’s all just a really well-played poker face.