Smartphones Key to Mobile Gaming Growth

April 15, 2010

Rising smartphone adoption rates show promise for the mobile gaming industry to reverse declining participation rates, according to data from comScore.

Feature Phone Users Drive Overall Mobile Gaming Decline
In the three months ending February 2010, an average of 50.9 million mobile subscribers had played at least one game in the past month, a 13% drop from the average of 58.6 million who had done so in the three months ending February 2009. However, a 35% annual decline in the number of non-smartphone subscribers who had played a game in the past month (45.2 million to 29.5 million) created this decline. Mobile gaming showed a 60% increase among smartphone subscribers (13.4 million to 21.4 million).

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Smartphone Subscribers Heavier Mobile Gamers
Smartphone subscribers (47.1%) are three times more likely than feature phone subscribers (15.7%) to play games on their device at least once a month. They are more than five times as likely to play games almost every day and far surpass their feature phone counterparts across various methods of game play.

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Smartphone subscribers also install significantly more games on their devices, with 27.3% having installed at least one game, compared to just 5.6% of feature phone subscribers. One-third of smartphone subscribers with games have more than five games installed on their phones, while less than 1% of feature phone subscribers have that many games installed.

Smartphone Subscribers Play More Hardcore Games
Smartphone subscribers are more likely to play mobile games than feature phone subscribers across every gaming genre. The genre with the highest penetration among smartphone subscribers is arcade puzzle games at 12.9%, followed by card games (11.9 %), word/number games (11.4%) and casino games (7.6%).

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While casual game genres have higher penetration than hardcore genres (sports, racing, action/adventure, first-person shooter), the hardcore genres exhibit significantly higher adoption among smartphone subscribers. This finding highlights the importance of the smartphone medium in driving adoption of higher quality gaming experiences, according to comScore analysis.

iPhone, iPod Touch Games: 24% of Market by 2014
The worldwide market for portable and mobile games is expected to grow to $11.7 billion by 2014, driven – in large part – by Apple’s iPhone and iPod Touch systems, which will account for 24% of total portable game software sales within five years, according to a forecast from DFC Intelligence.

Though DFC estimates that dedicated portable game systems from top game makers Nintendo and Sony will still lead the market during the forecast period, it now appears that growth for these devices has peaked.

In contrast, “the platforms from Apple are expected to be responsible for the bulk of market growth over the next few years,” said DFC analyst David Cole.

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