Users snub Telstra's SMS game

Telstra’s recent release of an interactive mobile phone game is viewed by 72 percent of respondents to a survey as just another gambling trap.

SYDNEY (ZDNet Australia)--Telstra’s recent release of an interactive mobile phone game is viewed by 72 percent of respondents to a ZDNet Australia survey as just another gambling trap.

Eighteen percent of readers said they would participate in Australia’s first Short Messaging Service game released by Telstra MobileNet. However, an overwhelming 72 percent turned their noses up at the new money-spinner, saying it is just another form of gambling.

Seemingly backing up the claim are figures released by Telstra itself, which show that only 10,000 customers out of its claimed user base of five million mobile phone customers took part in the game in the first three days of its release.

The new Short Messaging Service game, which is based on the television program Who Wants to be a Millionaire?, was described in a previous ZDNet report by telecommunications analyst Paul Budde as a “rip-off”.

SMS users are charged A$0.30 a pop for each SMS answer sent in response to a series of question. If the answer is correct, a new question is triggered within three minutes. Users will be competing for a cash prize of A$10,000.

Telstra denied claims that the game was a form of gambling, saying “it’s a game of skill, knowledge and trivia”.

“We’re only offering the prize pool for the first three months as an incentive to get people to play the game and experience another form of SMS,” Telstra representative Virginia Murphy said.

Budde believes the youth market is at risk of being trapped by the SMS games, and will have to deal with the consequences of higher than normal phone bills.

Telstra is, however, of the opinion that it is up to individuals whether they play the SMS game or not.

”A lot of people will be caught in the net and we can’t be arrogant and say ‘it’s their own fault',” Budde said.

Society has some responsibility to prevent people from getting into financial problems caused by the greedy promoters, he added.

The game has been introduced on the back of its success in Europe, which Telstra claims will prove “equally as popular” here in Australia.

Budde said it would be a very “lucrative” business. ”It’s like gambling…it’s a huge problem but no one really wants to do anything about it because it’s so lucrative.”

Helping users to avoid falling into debt from excessive game playing will be very much a matter of “good education and information” provided by the service promoter, according to Budde.

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