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Mobile games market to reach $10bn by 2013, but growth 'severely restricted' by operator business models, claims research

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While the arrival of the iPhone is said to have generated a universally positive response from mobile games publishers and developers, the volume of paid-for mobile game downloads has nonetheless flatlined across North America and Western Europe, according to a new report from Juniper Research.

The report found that although the retail value of the global mobile games market is expected to rise from $5.4bn in 2008 to more than $10bn in 2013, the potential for growth in many key markets is being dampened by a combination of limited on-portal revenue share for publishers - meaning that some are exiting the mobile games industry - and poor games marketing.

According to report author Dr Windsor Holden "The revenue share offered by Apple to games publishers is incredibly attractive. The danger is that if operators do not respond with a similar business model, publishers faced with low margins may simply exit Java completely, thereby reducing consumer choice in the longer term."

The report also found that while ad-funded downloads have increased markedly in popularity, the revenues accrued from advertising are unlikely to be sufficient to provide developers or operators with a primary revenue stream. It argued that, with cost per mille (CPM) rates likely to fall in the face of pressures on advertising budgets, advertising would be largely employed by most publishers as a means of monetising older content.

However, the Juniper study remained optimistic about prospects for growth in regions such as the Indian Sub Continent, Africa/Middle East and South America, where the combination of increased mobile adoption and low levels of penetration of both games consoles and fixed Internet means that the mobile handset has already become the de facto gaming device.

Other findings from the Juniper report include:

  • China and the Far East will remain the largest regional market for mobile games throughout the period covered by the report.
  • Global revenues from in-game advertising will rise significantly from 2008 to 2013.
  • Operators need to reduce data charges further for out of bundle customers to encourage casual mobile Internet usage and thereby stimulate the mobile entertainment market