My Twitter pal @skypen (aka Fabio Gratton) keeps me up to date regarding innovative health apps and games developed by pharmaceutical and other healthcare companies. Today he tweeted:

“Humana develops health game for iPhone”

“Besides developing original games for health,” said Paul Puopolo, leader of Humana’s Games for Health, “[we] partner with game developers who are open to new business models to offer unique video games that can improve health and wellness.”

That’s an interesting goal for an iPhone app worthy of further investigation. So I went to the Humana Games for Health Web site and found this promo for the Humana iPhone game app called “Colorfall”:

This is a game similar to Tetris. The objective is to arrange and eliminate cascading color squares before the screen fills up. How does this game “improve health and wellness?” Well, you are prompted to get up off your behind and use the iPhone to photograph colorful objects such as a butter dish (shown below):

The app uses the dominant color in the photo to alter the color of squares, which can help you win the game.

In other words, this game improves health and wellness by encouraging you to move around. Huh? Usually, I play games when I’m stuck in the middle seat of an airplane and not able to move around. If I were at home and went into my fridge looking for colorful foods, I might just pause the game and have a snack. Butter, hmmmmm…

Anyway, Colorfall looks like a game worth trying. But I will never download it because Humana has the nerve to charge $2.99! I asked Fabio: “Why would I pay $2.99 for these games from Humana – an insurance company with $bn in assets????” To which Fabio replied: “i agree. Should be free. Who will pay? Probably Pharma cos and competitors to learn/see what others are doing.”

If you are working for a pharma company and thinking of developing iPhone or iPad game apps, I doubt you would want to charge people $2.99. People hate the pharma industry about as much as they hate insurance companies and are sure not to pay. So it’s a mystery to me why Humana charges people a fee for this game, especially if they believe it will improve the health of the people covered by their plans and thus lower their costs.

A better business model for game apps is to offer free games that include motivational messages or links to useful information as part of the game.