Television and music have been stealing the limelight in the mobile content arena recently, but after years of development, mobile gaming has established itself as a serious content player. It is a core element of the growing market for mobile entertainment services and a stable revenue generator for cellco data services.
The emergence of advanced 3G handsets has helped mobile gaming reach new levels in terms of quality and user experience. Today end-users can play a variety of games, from simple embedded or downloadable Java games to 3D games and connected multiple-players games.
Industry figures show that worldwide mobile gaming revenues have been on the rise over the past few years, and mobile gaming is poised for continuous growth in terms of not only revenues, but also audience and game capacity over the next five years.
According to Informa Telecoms and Media, the worldwide market for mobile games will grow from $2.41 billion in 2006 to $7.22 billion by 2011. Juniper Research is more bullish, projecting global revenues will grow from $3 billion this year to $17.5 billion by 2010. Either way, the Asia Pacific region - which has dominated the market since its inception - is expected to continue to rule the sector during that time. Informa says Asia will account for over 60% of the global market this year, driven primarily by Japan and South Korea. Juniper Research, meanwhile, suggests Asia will contribute 38% of global revenues over the whole forecast period, followed by Europe with 31%, North America with 22% and the other 9% split between South America and the rest of the world.
Interestingly, however, it's not sexy cutting-edge MMORPGs (massive multiplayer online role playing games) that will serve as the key growth engine for mobile gaming over the next five years, but casual games designed for one chief purpose: killing time.
'Mobile gaming is entering into a new phase of development which sees casual gaming rather than hardcore gaming to be the next big thing,' says Bruce Gibson, research director with Juniper Research. 'Casual games make most use of the inherent advantages of the mobile platform. People want to fill 'dead time' with easy to use, but fun games. This is the same in just about every culture.'
Beyond the hardcore niche
Gibson says one of the key drivers for casual gaming is mobile's advantage of provisioning games and entertainment anytime, anywhere, as well as the high penetration rate of handsets, which position mobile gaming as one of the more prosperous gaming platforms, along with online and console games.
'Unless you are a really dedicated gamer you will not have your electronic games device with you most of your walking day - but you may well have your mobile phone,' he says. 'As mobile phones increasingly become accepted as multi-functional devices, a whole new market opens up for casual games playing that simply has not existed before.'
Gibson says the casual gaming market is developing now as mobile operators, game publishers/developers start pushing mobile gaming beyond the niche 'hardcore' or serious gamers.
Game developers like I-Play, for instance, are targeting that sort of market by introducing games designed very much with mobile in mind - not just games that have been ported from console titles to a mobile environment.