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Mobile gaming market to hit $5bn mark by 2006

Network operators have got to concentrate on the youth market if they are to make money from mobile gaming, according to analysts

The mobile gaming market will be worth $5bn (£3.4bn) within five years if providers take advantage of faster networks and more powerful mobile phones, according to research released earlier this week.

Analyst firm Strategy Analytics believes that the rollout of 2.5G technologies such as General Packet Radio Service (GPRS) will give operators the opportunity to run exciting and interactive games on their networks. GPRS is an always-on high-speed mobile phone network.

Strategy Analytics estimates that there will be 100 million mobile gamers world-wide by 2006 -- making mobile gaming an important source of revenue for the mobile sector,

The potential of mobile gaming can be seen by taking a look at the video games sector. With annual sales of £1bn in the UK alone, it is a bigger market than cinema or video.

Strategy Analytics analyst Nitesh Patel warns, though, that mobile gaming will not appeal to everyone. He thinks that network operators and wireless gaming portals must concentrate on the youth market -- what Patel describes as the "sweet spot of 16-24 year olds".

"Gaming is a bipolar activity. People either play games very frequently -- i.e. more than once a day -- or very infrequently -- i.e. less than once a week," said Patel.

Network operators are already making advances into the mobile gaming sector. Orange has set up a games division that will develop and publish wirefree games, and 14 games are already available to play over Orange's WAP portal -- including a boxing simulator and a role-playing adventure game.

At the CeBIT computer show earlier this year, Motorola announced that one of its GPRS phones would play games such as Who Wants to be a Millionaire? and Trivial Pursuits, but users wouldn't be able to compete against each other.

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