04 December 2006

Middle East Mobile Gaming: Press “Start” to Play

The worldwide total market for digital games is worth over US$30 billion. The primary platforms have been PC and consoles but now the Mobile Phone is taking an increasingly bigger part of the pie and this is only logical when you look back at successful mobile gaming consoles like the Nintendo and the Gameboy, I so miss my double-screened Donkey Kong…

But games are not all about having fun, its serious business nowadays. In fact, it’s now so serious that there are sub-economies forming around popular games. If you go to Ebay.com you will find that you can buy Warcraft accounts for as much as US$3,000 and last year one person paid US$26,000 for a virtual island inside the MMORPG (Massive Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game) Entropia. But why constrict yourself to planet earth when we are in the digital fantasy world? A month later another person bought a space station in the same game for US$100,000. He said he would use it as a “resort” for other players’ characters in the game.

So why should an operator care about something as silly as games? Well, the Middle East telecom market is moving into a more de-regulated environment that will also be more competitive and that meansthat the operator has to do more to stand out from its competition. In this competitive environment, operators will need to differentiate and position themselves with Value Added Services, such as games.

Ericsson recently conducted an extensive research in the Middle East markets that showed 32% of users in the UAE and KSA play games at least once a week. These numbers outperform other mobile services like MMS, portal browsing and listening to music or even mobile TV. Ericsson research also showed that the game market today is worth US$67 million and could reach US$377 million in 2011 when considering the strong growth in the Middle East.

But revenues are not the only benefit from Games in the operators offering to its customers. In an increasingly competitive landscape the cost of acquisition and churn will be eating away on the operators business cases. For some European markets de-regulation and increased competition has meant a decrease in voice revenues between 30-70%. Research show that users who are active VAS users (like gamers) are 50% less likely to churn from that operator and by using attractive games to get new customers attention the cost of acquisition can be lowered by as much as 35%.

So games are important to operators and Ericsson can offer a complete games portfolio for an operator in the Middle East. Ericsson’s game portfolio consists of both single player and multiplayer games, of simple games and more advanced 3D games. With many games to choose from, there is also a HiScore community that will enhance experiences and create the stickiness operator needs to fight churn. All games are screened for cultural, geographical and religious considerations. Ericsson can also provide games that are localized to Arabic and with Arabic environments and contexts.

In addition to its games portfolio, Ericsson is also investing heavily in technologies such as HSPA that will allow higher bandwidth in the 3G networks. This bandwidth can of course be used by our creative game developers to create an even more immersive user experience. Another technology is IMS that will allow game developers to use for instance speech and location as an integral part of a multiplayer game. Here, it’s only the imagination of the creative game industry that sets the limit.



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