Mobile gaming is far more than just a fad, according to a new report published by The NPD Group, "Mobile Games: Who's Playing." The report, which provides an in-depth look at consumer demand for mobile games, is based on a recent survey of more than 8,500 teens and adults conducted by The NPD Group and explores the key growth drivers in this flourishing market, including purchasing habits, who's buying vs. who's freeloading and just how much they'll pay to play.
"The world of mobile gaming is like the Wild West," says Clint Wheelock, vice president of wireless research for The NPD Group, who oversaw the study. "In this time of rapid growth, and with the industry in such a formative stage, it's especially important for wireless operators and game publishers to understand the mindsets of mobile gamers, in order to best position themselves for long-term success."
According to the report, the addressable market for mobile games continues to expand quickly, with half of all U.S. wireless subscribers now owning phones capable of downloading games. A full 27 percent play games on those devices, including purchased downloads as well as free demos and pre-loaded games, compared to 20 percent last year. Even better for the industry, the market hasn't come close to tapping its potential--another six percent of current non-gamers confessed an interest in playing on their phone over the next year. The reason most often cited for the burgeoning interest: "to kill time or alleviate boredom." In fact, the average gaming session is a mere 11 minutes.
Mobile games are a "digital snack" for video gamers while they're away from their game consoles, PCs, and handhelds - consumers who play games on other devices are twice as likely to play on their cell phones, as well. But limited screen size and navigation options do have an impact, which is a key reason why casual games like puzzles and cards are the most popular. Not surprisingly, kids between the ages of 13 and 17 (60 percent) are nearly three times as likely as adults (23 percent) to be mobile gamers. More surprising, however, is the increasing ethnic diversity of the mobile gaming community--compared to typical wireless subscribers, mobile gamers are twice as likely to be African-American, Hispanic or Asian.
According to the report, mobile gamers tend to spend more on handsets--an average of 57 percent more. They also tend to be heavier users of their mobile phones for regular calls, using 48 percent more wireless minutes than non-gamers, and their monthly wireless bills are 22 percent higher than the average subscriber.
But not all of the news is positive for the mobile gaming industry. According to the report, there's a significant price sensitivity issue, which is inhibiting the industry from really taking off. That helps explain why only about one-third of mobile gamers actually buy the games themselves. The remaining two-thirds are satisfied playing free or pre-loaded games. And just like digital music, the dominant purchase model is single downloads, while monthly subscriptions barely show up on consumer's radars.
"Mobile Games: Who's Playing?" was an Internet-based survey among members of NPD's online consumer panel. A nationally balanced sample of teens (13-17) and adults (18+) was invited to complete the survey, and NPD collected 8,774 total responses, of which 6,703 were current wireless subscribers and thus qualified for the Mobile Gaming survey. Price sensitivity analysis was conducted using the Van Westendorp Price Sensitivity Meter methodology.