While 98.4 million people across western Europe and the US played a game on their mobile handset in the month of December 2007, three quarters of those were playing native games which came free with the phone when they bought it.
This finding is in line with the fact that although 8.8pc of mobile phone owners actually downloaded and played a game within the last year, there has been no growth at all in this particular market.
M:Metric, the global mobile media analysis firm which carried out the report, found that while France had the lowest penetration of downloaded mobile games, Spain recorded the highest rate of game downloads at 5.6pc.
Despite the introduction of smartphones and media-centric devices like the BlackBerry and the iPhone on to the market, a bare fraction of phone users are actually playing games on their handset’s web browser.
In fact, it is thought that the more these devices converge with powerful computing devices, they become increasingly open to hosting pirated games, thus slowing the growth of the mobile games market even further.
“One of the greatest challenges facing publishers from the growing adoption of smartphones is the wide availability of free or pirated content for these devices,” said Seamus McAteer, chief product architect and senior analyst with M:Metrics.
“While these devices lend themselves to mobile media consumption, the openness of smart platforms opens up the internet and frees consumers from the operator deck,” he said.
McAteer went on to say that in order to compete in this environment, games publishers may have to consider new and different business models such as subscriptions or ad-funded or subsidised downloads.
Nokia’s N-Gage model essentially offers this: an online community where users can test games for free before purchasing and can share scores with friends, as well as create some games with their own user generated content.
By Marie Boran