Mobile gaming set to take off

The world’s top four games publishers are taking an ever bigger share of the market for mobile games, according to the latest report from media analyst, Screen Digest. EA Mobile, Gameloft, Glu and THQ Wireless have seen their global market shares increase from 11% to 22% in 2007 and the figure is rising, particularly in Western Europe.

Screen Digest anticipates that the mobile games market will generate an extra €1 billion in the next five years to reach a total value of €2.6 billion by 2012. Historically, Asia has been the biggest market in terms of industry revenues with over 37% market share in 2007, but Screen Digest predicts that from 2009 onwards, North America will become the largest market.

North America has been experiencing continued growth, generating an average of €125 million every year for the past four years. Screen Digest expects this revenue growth to continue and double the market value to just over €1.1 billion by 2012.

Released in the same month that Apple’s iPhone 3G went on sale, the report reveals the potentially revolutionary impact that touchscreen handsets could have on mobile gaming. In particular, Screen Digest expects that the iPhone will drive the growth of the North American market raising it to the leading global market by revenue next year.

Ronan de Renesse, senior mobile analyst at Screen Digest, commented: “Whilst the current demand for games that can be played on the iPhone is giving the mobile gaming industry a much needed boost, there are a number of issues that will need to be addressed by games developers. They need to overcome technical challenges to deliver more enticing games to a wider audience of gamers – and they need to do this fast. So whilst in the short term the iPhone is boosting sales of mobile games, the favour won’t be returned until the iPhone can support a major blockbuster title – or two.”

From the perspective of both games developers and mobile users, these units have the potential to be the number one device for mobile gaming. This is supported by recently released retail sales figures that show 10 million applications were downloaded from the Apple online store in the three days after the iPhone 3G went on sale on 11 July. However the handset presents technical challenges for developers, limiting the sophistication of the games on offer which in turn restricts audience retention.

By consistently producing good quality titles and focusing on increasing its catalogue, Gameloft has created strong company growth. In comparison, the current market leader EA Mobile has faltered. On 31 March 2008, Gameloft reportedly earned $40 million, only $1 million less than EA Mobile. Screen Digest expects Gameloft to usurp EA’s leadership position during the remainder of 2008 and then to retain its position as the leading mobile games publisher for the foreseeable future. Gameloft’s next challenge will be conquering the all-important US market, where revenue shares are better.