Mobile gaming takes over the world

Four out of five users -- 200 million people -- will be playing games on their mobiles by 2005

Mobile games promise to provide the next Internet gold mine for entrepreneurs, according to dramatic new research released by Datamonitor Tuesday.

Datamonitor released its Wireless Gaming research at London's ECTS show and concluded that the wireless games industry in Europe and the US will grow from nothing now to a staggering $6bn in 2005. The report says wireless will be the single most important driving force behind next generation mobile devices. This translates to 200 million mobile game players by 2005 or 4 out of every 5 mobile users.

The same research indicates that Western Europe will lead the US in this revolution.

Many games companies could be fooled into overlooking this potential because of the disappointment of WAP. Datamonitor warns that they ignore this potential at their peril. "This is a big opportunity for anyone in the content industry," says co-author of the report and Datamonitor consultant, Stephen Adshead.

"Games represent one of the few contents that have mass market appeal. The games companies are starting to realise this but there's also the chance for start-up developers."

Mobile phone companies including BT Cellnet and Germany's T-Mobile have already launched GPRS (General Packet Radio Service) services - set to replace GSM - which offer data connections up to 115kb/s compared to GSM's 9.6kb/s. GPRS also offers always-on connectivity, greatly altering the types of content that can be received by mobile devices. UMTS (Universal Mobile Telecommunications System), which replace GPRS roughly by 2002, will offer even more bandwidth, reaching 2MB/s.

The study does not indicate how mobile gaming will feed off the increased bandwidth offered by next generation technology. It does however, illustrate that, while games will drive the adoption of next generation mobile devices, increased use of such devices will have a positive impact on the rest of the games market.

"People have asked 'does this mean the death of the console?'" says Adshead. "That's absolute rubbish, it will be complimentary. It's certainly not going to impact upon sales. You could use your mobile to check up on the latest developments with a game, for example."

Datamonitor's figures show that while the US leads the games industry today, Europe will see more opportunity in the field of mobile games. Datamonitor estimates that the market will be shared 60/40 in Europe's favour. According to Adshead, this is due to conflicting US standards along with a lack of flexibility in pricing structures.

The study does not, however, include consideration of the Japanese mobile market, which is arguably more advanced than that of Western Europe and where DoCoMo's iMode Internet phone standard is already offering games more advanced than those seen on WAP.

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