Subscription Video Game Service Coming to a Prison Near You

Tablet games are getting a lot cheaper for inmates.

Global Tel Link

Prison inmates might be playing the same addicting phone games as you, and today, it got a whole lot cheaper.

Global Tel Link, a communications and technology service provider for corrections facilities, announced today that it will offer a subscription-based game platform with around 20 games. The service aims to provide cheaper access to something inmates already have: generic versions of today’s most popular phone and tablet game apps.

“Inmates are able to get more access on a monthly basis,” Brian Peters, executive director of inmate applications at Global Tel Link, tells Inverse. “From our side, it’s an easier controlled mechanism for deploying it anywhere from native applications to game that are hosted on a local server. It allows for a more dynamic game environment.”

That game environment includes classics like solitaire, Yahtzee, and a word search, as well as prison-approved versions of current games like a motorcycle racing game, climb hill, and angry footballs (like Angry Birds, but more Tom Brady).

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If the name Global Tel Link rings a bell, it may be from the introduction segment of Serial (“This is a Global Tel Link prepaid call from — Adnan Syed”). The company, as well as other communications companies that focus on prisons, have recently come under scrutiny for price rigging phone rates for a literally captive audience. The move to provide games in a subscription format, however, appears to be cheaper for inmates at its base price.

The price for a monthly subscription will start at $5.99, Peters says, but will vary depending on the location. Each game outside of the subscription costs between $1 to $2. Out of Global Tel Link’s 50 game offerings, the top 20 will be offered.

Tablets that offer things like online classes, phone and email services, and games have been available in select prisons since 2015. The tablets help prisoners keep in contact with family members as well as help ease the eventual transition from the concrete and bars of prison to the digital-focused outside world.

Everything offered on the tablets are specially modified. For games, that means no Google Store or online connectivity, advertisements, or leaderboards. Of course, not everyone supports the option for inmates to play games on tablets. Plenty of school systems across the country would benefit from tablets that they can’t afford, and prison isn’t meant to be an entertainment center. But technology provides something that other things can’t, Peters says.

“We think that games certainly add to the calm collected nature as they play these games,” Peters says. “We understand there is a critique out there, but we’ve always been clear that it’s a choice and it’s a very fair price.”

The overwhelming majority of inmates won’t be inmates forever, and the transition back into general population is a challenge.

“Every product is worthy of critique,” Peters says, “but I think it’s very difficult for one person to set the priority for another person.”

Generic game streaming: coming to a prison near you.