30 September 2006

Mobile Gaming Market Booms

"Mobile gaming is finally beginning to come of age," claims Mohammed Al Maskari, Director General, Knowledge Oasis Muscat and organizer of eGames 2006. Advances in handset technology, such as large colour screens, larger memory capacity and compact physical size, in addition to developments in 3G GPRS, EDGE, Java and BREW look set to enable the market to realise the potential of mobile handsets as fully-fledged gaming devices.

Recent reports suggest that the mobile games market grew by 78% in 2005 alone. "With console gaming, customers are obliged to make the commitment to buy a fairly expensive piece of equipment. But the beauty of mobile is that we've a global audience that already owns the hardware in the form of their handset," commented Al Maskari. Indeed, global mobile games revenues are expected to reach RO4.3 billion (US$11.2 billion) by 2010 and mobile device users are projected to reach over 2 billion by the end of 2006. It's clear that mobile gaming is definitely not a market to be ignored.

Mobile Gaming Is Different
What makes mobile gaming so different from any other type of console based gaming is the fact that the ‘potential mobile gamer’ already owns the platform on which they can play the game. The sheer penetration of game enabled devices, which stands at 40% of the 2 billion devices worldwide today, set to grow to 97% of all mobile phones sold in 2008 - means that mobile gaming is highly accessible. Compare this to videogames where over the past 25 years 500 million consoles have been sold, compared to the 600 millon mobiles sold just in the past 12 months. The figures are staggering and so are the opportunities.

Who's Playing?
But who's playing mobile games and how are they playing? Figures reveal that more women than men are playing games on handsets. When you compare this to the typical console player, who is male, aged between 14-24 - there is an obvious contrast. When we look at the behaviour of the average mobile gamer, we find that games are played in short bursts of time - it’s a virtual snack in comparison to the four-course banquet offered by the consoles.

Let's briefly consider one of the world's most dynamic gaming markets, Japan. In fact, when it comes to mobile gaming, the Japanese are at the bleeding edge. Only a few years ago, nearly every twenty-something Tokoyo commuter spent their entire journey sending e-mails on their phones, now a healthy proportion of them are playing mobile games. Most of these are variations on classic board games like Go and Chess, card games and the occasional dialogue choice driven adventure title, a genre much beloved in the Far East. The Japanese mobile casual games market is thriving and in time we should expect to see the same boom in Oman.

However, despite the fact that nearly half all men and women have played a game on their mobile, it's estimated that only 5% of these people are downloading games - this shows the incredible potential for the industry. Demand is there and people are playing, but as yet the majority haven't embraced the concept of downloading quality content available. We need to figure out a way to get folk downloading – an issue that will undoubtedly be addressed at eGames.

Growing Fast
The mobile gaming sector is the fastest growing segment of the gaming market. It's more than evident that the opportunities are there for those who understand the dynamics of this growing industry. The barriers to entry are low, but to succeed, industry stakeholders require the knowledge and recognition that this isn't the console industry and that the end user demands a very different gaming experience in terms of access and playability. Understanding and acceptance of these factors will ensure that telco operators, content providers and mobile manufacturers continue to drive this burgeoning industry on and up and its true potential is realised.

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