Mobile gaming gaining

19 Jun 2006

Is North America set to bypass Asia as the online gaming capital of the world‾ Maybe so, if a new research report is to be believed.

According to research firm DFC Intelligence, the online gaming market will grow from $3.4 billion in 2005 to more than $13 billion in 2011. And DFC anticipates that North America will try to catch up to Asia's current lead in the next five years.

What's sparking the growth‾ Nor surprisingly is being driven by growing PC penetration coupled with the growing popularity of broadband, both in the home and on mobile devices. Broadband adoption rates are booming in the US thanks to a number of factors, not the least of which is the introduction of Microsoft Xbox 360 and the impending new Sony PlayStation III.

That's a development carriers around the world will want to keep a close watch upon. The desire to build revenue streams through mobile broadband content of all types, including gaming, has been dominating discussion at recent industry events. At Qualcomm's recent BREW conference in San Diego, for example, Qualcomm and Microsoft teamed up over mobile gaming. Qualcomm announced support for Microsoft's "Live Anywhere" vision (a unified environment allowing games to be played seamlessly on numerous devices) in its BREW environment.

Chris Early, a "studio manager" for Microsoft's games division, called mobile "a proven and compelling gaming platform and a natural extension of our vision for a seamless and unified gaming experience." The goal is to provide "on-the-go-access for our gaming communities at anytime, anywhere."

For its part, Qualcomm at the conference introduced a comprehensive gaming solution, called the BREW Signature Solution for Gaming, that allows service providers to deliver richer gaming experiences and includes the capability for customers to purchase via Web sites and retail a portfolio of BREW games from publishers and developers around the world.

Such vendor plans to support mobile service providers may end up being quite timely if predictions such as DFC's hold true.

The report notes that new hardware from Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo all have a major focus on online connectivity, a significant break from what's come in the past.

DFC foresees growth in digital distribution, especially in North America. But the firm warns the online gaming market could be impeded by fragmentation in products and among vendors. It notes that the most popular games have generally done well in one market, such as China or the US, but struggled for broader geographic acceptance.

That's a problem service providers might well help vendors solve.

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