OpenFeint Tries Group Buying for Mobile Games With Game Channel

Mobile social gaming network OpenFeint is launching an app called Game Channel today, its latest attempt to find new ways to illuminate individual games in the crowded mobile market.

Game Channel’s headline feature is called “Fire Sale”, an attempt to spin the Groupon model of advertising a deal and to attract the attention of a sizable group of people. Once enough people have joined the deal, the price drops to a set point and the purchases of the group go ahead.

Rather than selling the deal of the day, Fire Sale will have users “vote” for a deal, and when enough votes are collected, each voter will get a push notification about the sale price — likely because mobile billing systems can’t be easily set up for an automatic, timed transaction.

So Fire Sale isn’t exactly Groupon for games – the developer is not assured of a sale from every voter. That doesn’t necessarily matter, though. Most mobile app sales are less about the people buying at sale price than they are about driving up the ranking of the game in the App Store, assuming the sale takes place on the iOS, or getting it into the world, if on Google’s stunted Android Market.

With that in mind, Group Channel also has a “Free Game of the Day”, in which an app that would otherwise be a paid download is made free to push it into the rankings.

This appears to be the true direction of the market — other networks are also pushing daily free game deals, and earlier this month OpenFeint also released its own set of tools for developers to go freemium.