Prepaid game cards sold at stores are a great way to make the online game market accessible to kids who don’t have credit cards. But they can be a problem for parents who don’t want their kids to use the prepaid cards to skirt age limits on mature-related video games.
That’s why Open Network Entertainment (ONE) is launching a prepaid card today that is parent friendly. The card’s “parental power” feature sends an email to a parent whenever the child uses the card to buy something online, detailing exactly what the child bought. On top of that, ONE will issue an age-appropriate card at purchase. That card will operate only on game sites that correspond to the user’s age group and will be redeemable only for games with a corresponding age rating. While those features appeal to parents, the players should like it because the card will make them eligible for bonus features in the games.
The ONE Power-Up prepaid card is now available at Rite Aid drugstores nationwide (more stores are coming soon). The card can be used to buy playing time or virtual items on more than 20 different online games.
The Englewood Cliffs, N.J.-based company is a joint venture of LTI Global in the U.S. and Payletter in South Korea formed in February. LTI makes prepaid cards for telecommunications purposes, while Payletter is an online game billing services provider. ONE has partnered with InComm, a maker of prepaid cards.
The Power-Up card also lets players use the web site to monitor how much money they have on their cards, reload the value, pay subscriptions, preview new games or buy virtual goods. Participating game publishers include Aeria Games, OnNet (GamesCampus), Fantage, NDoors, NHN Global, Game HI, and JC Entertainment.
While the parent-friendly card is a good idea, ONE faces some serious competition from PlaySpan’s Ultimate Game Card, which is available in many more locations and can be used to play more than 1,000 games. Companies such as InComm and GMG Entertainment are also offering prepaid cards for specific games. So it’s not going to be easy for ONE to crack into this fairly specialized market. PlaySpan’s cards are available in at least 45,000 stores.
Both InComm and GMG have reported strong sales this year. Earlier this year, InComm said its sales were up 200 percent compared to a year ago. As of 2007, it had handled $8 billion worth of prepaid card transactions (of any type of card). Sales of prepaid game cards have been growing for a few years. The market really took off in 2004 when Apple launched its iTunes music prepaid cards.