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MGF 2008: Breakdown of the UK mobile games market

M:Metrics statto guru Paul Goode gives us some numbers

Product: Mobile Games Forum 2008 | Manufacturer: Osney Media
Mobile Games Forum 2008 Mobile, thumbnail 1
Next up at the Mobile Games Forum 2008 is Paul Goode from M:Metrics, who's giving us an overview of the size of the mobile games market: how many people are playing, what are they playing, and so on.

The company surveys half a million people a year in its consumer surveys, and all the data that follows is a three-month average, ending in November 2007.

First, some general stuff. 22.8 per cent of UK mobile subscribers are on 3G networks, although the rate of new signups is slowing compared to other countries. This is important for games, because as Goode says, a 3G subscriber is roughly twice as likely to download a mobile game as a 2G subscriber.

Smartphones are still a relatively small percentage of the mobile population – 9.6 per cent. In Europe as a whole, Symbian smartphone users download 16.3 per cent of all mobile game purchases though (Windows Mobile owners, by contrast, only download 1.4 per cent of games in Europe).

Java is pretty much a standard now in Europe, with the latest MIDP 2.0 specification – pretty well established – 73 per cent of handsets. Meanwhile, Flash Lite, which can also be used for gaming, is on 25.3 per cent of UK handsets.

Now he brings up a slide of the top 12 phones for games downloads in the UK. Sony Ericsson scores highly, although Nokia's N95 and N73 are in the mix too. Goode shows a graph indicating that Sony Ericsson owners are also more likely to download a game than owners of other handsets. LG also performs well.

Nokia doesn't do so well in this metric, but Goode says it's because they sold millions of handsets several years ago, so there's a lot of people with old Nokia phones who don't play games.
"Probably the key company that's underperforming at the moment is Motorola," he says.
Now onto games. The top-line figure in the UK: 4.8 per cent of UK mobile subscribers downloaded a game in November, but that proportion hasn't increased much in the last year. Nearly 30 of Brits have played a mobile game, but only 11 per cent played a downloaded game (again, these figures are a monthly average from September to November last year).

M:Metrics has also asked people how they downloaded a game, asking if it was a trial-only download, a purchased download, or downloading the full version of a game for free. In the UK, purchased downloads are by far the biggest category, but a lot of people are downloading games for free. These could be ad-funded games, or free advergames (I got one of these last night, for Cadbury's Crème Egg), or pirated games.

Who's buying mobile games though?

In the UK, just over half are female, and just under half are male – it's practically equal. However, significantly more men are downloading trials and free games. It's not driven by youth either: the largest group in the UK is 25-34 year-olds, although 18-24 year-olds aren't far behind. Even 35-44 year-olds aren't far off generating 20 per cent of mobile game purchases.

Right, what are people playing?

There's a clear age gap.
"You've got a younger male playing more action games, and an older female playing more of the casual games," says Goode.
Focusing on the UK, action and sports genres have 1.8 times as many games on the operator portals as casual games, yet casual games have 1.8 per cent as many players. Or to put this another way: sports/action games take up 64 per cent of the premium slots on the portals, but generate less than a third of the sales.

Top 10 publishers in the UK - in terms of how many games they had on the portal - are: EA Mobile, Gameloft, Glu Mobile, I-Play, Player One, Digital Chocolate, Eidos, THQ Wireless, Player X, and Namco.

Goode says that on the whole, the games that are promoted highest on-portal have the highest sales, although he says there are some that are under or over performing (but he doesn't say which).

How are people finding out about mobile games?

The phone is still the biggest method by far in the UK for both discovering and purchasing mobile games – over 85 per cent for purchases.

Bundling the last few slides into one thought, I'd say this: most UK mobile gamers buy their games from their operator's portal. The games that sell best are unsurprisingly the ones that get the best 'deck placement' on those portals. And the people deciding who gets the best placement are... the operators. And they seem to favour action/sports titles.

This brings us back to the comment in the panel discussion earlier today, about a few people within operators effectively dictating what sells and what doesn't. It's an issue that's sure to be discussed more over the course of this conference.

Reviewer photo
Stuart Dredge 23 January 2008
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