Is Mobile the Next Evolution of Social?

Dean Takahashi from VentureBeat recently wrote an excellent article exploring the mobile gaming space. In the article he discusses the business strategy utilized by Zynga of acquiring numerous innovative social gaming companies to solidify market leadership in the category. He then ponders if the same “rollup” strategy will be used by someone in the mobile space.

” That is how the market rewards companies that pioneer a new market in games and come to dominate it — at the right time. Will the same thing happen again in mobile?” 

After digesting the article I decided to explore how recent developments in the social games industry point to the massive potential of developing games for mobile platforms.  In this post we will take a look at the convergence of mobile and social gaming. But before we dive into the mobile gaming data and trends, let’s take a look on the hardware/platform side (the handsets) and get a sense of the absolutely staggering numbers with this very informative (if slightly dated) video from Sybase (SAP).

Here are some additional resources concerning mobile phone growth and trends: Here are some phenomenal stats from a Cisco Networks report entitled: The Cisco® Visual Networking Index (VNI) Global Mobile Data Traffic Forecast Update. Trends are highlighted nicely here

Here is an excellent Infographic regarding mobile growth from Microsoft Tag via DigitalBuzz

Finally, TechCrunch breaks Q1 2011 growth rates for smartphones here

There are some astonishing figures and growth rates as smartphones continue to proliferate and capture more share of the mobile market, more opportunities for advanced mobile social gaming concepts will emerge due the robust nature of the underlying platform. Now let’s look at an excellent report about mobile social games. People that play Mobile Social Games are described in a recent report by Flurry as “the New Mass-Market Powerhouse“.  Let’s isolate some of the demographics. The bulk of this group is between the ages of 18 and 44.

Flurry_Age&Gender
Flurry Age & Gender Slide

The Guardian.uk provides further analysis of the flurry mobile social games report here and SocialTimes does here

A few takeaways are that, just like traditional social network games played on Facebook, females are a slight majority (53% vs 47% male) in terms of playing mobile social games. From a marketing perspective, this presents numerous opportunities.Women aged 26 to 44 are in their prime income earning years and in addition, are often the primary decision makers for purchasing household products and services for families. (as a sidenote, this demographic is almost identical to the Groupon/Living Social power buyers which tends to skew heavily towards urban professional women in approximately the same age cohort). Peter Farago describes the characteristics of this phenomenon.

” The Mobile Social Gamer segment is highly engaged, younger, made up of more females, more educated and more affluent.  In terms of usage behavior, they use social games far more often than they watch prime-time television shows, and using for 25 minutes per day, are heavy users of this interactive content “

The other key takeaway from the report is the sheer scale of the mobile social gaming marketplace. Peter Farago reveals the staggering numbers:

” Just how big is the audience in this new era of smartphone mobile gaming?  Consider that Flurry has detected over 250 million unique iOS and Android devices in the market, and is detecting more than 750,000 new devices daily.  According to recent reports, this installed base is larger than the combined worldwide installed base of console industry leaders Nintendo Wii, Microsoft Xbox 360 and Sony PlayStation 3, estimated at approximately 180 million units. “

In addition, Nielsen recently provided research that indicates that in the US, mobile games are the most popular type of application downloaded by mobile smartphone users.

” Among smartphone consumers who have played mobile games in the past 30 days, those with iPhones, Windows 7 phones or Android phones are the most likely to have downloaded the games they played, while those with Blackberry phones or featurephones tend to play pre-loaded games. “

A recent industry report by Gartner  indicates that mobile games will make up 20% of the projected $122 Billion dollar global gaming market by 2015.

” Tuong Nguyen, principal research analyst at Gartner, attributed this phenomenon to the rising popularity of smartphones and tablets and games being the most downloaded category of apps in appstores. “

USA Today discusses Apple’s push into mobile gaming with the iPhone and their new iPad Tablets.

” With the iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad, Apple has “delivered on the promise of mobile,” says Travis Boatman, senior vice president of worldwide studios for EA Mobile. “It’s like a blank canvas. It allows game designers to create any kind of interface they want for their game and change it on the fly, too. “

There are now tens of millions of people walking around with massive computing power in their pockets and purses. The platforms are powerful, networked and spreading like wildfire. Yet, the platforms are still fertile and the market  is still in its infancy. But as the industry matures, giant players with deep, deep pockets will continue to pour massive amounts of funding into this space. And virtually all advertisers will have no choice but to develop full scale strategies to capture customer mindshare in the mobile gaming space. In addition, mobile video is projected to dramatically spike and you can bet there will be plenty of innovative mobile social games developed that find outrageous ways to integrate what just ten years ago was considered the holy grail.

There are incredible opportunities for innovative ad agencies and marketing firms to reach their audience through mobile games that tie into popular brands in new and unique ways. The speed of  innovation on mobile and tablets over the next several years will be unprecedented. And the speed and scale of anything that goes viral via mobile will outright blow anything we’ve seen thus far out of the water. But the big questions are, how best to leverage this incredibly networked platform that literally bridges the online to the real world?

How will developers combine that raw power of the smartphone platforms with dynamic game mechanics and the ability to integrate the real world into gameplay? Will they bother? Or will they focus on porting their existing asynchronous style social games to the mobile environment? The future opportunities in mobile gaming seem almost limitless…..

However, mobile developers do have serious challenges ahead. ScoreLoop’s Volker Hirsch discusses the challenges facing mobile social games developers and also provides insight into the RIM purchase of ScoreLoop here:

” And this is where the specific complexities of mobile come into play: mobile is fiendishly complex. On the OS side, there is iOS, Android (in an increasing number of iterations), Windows Phone 7 (with some added spice since the announcement of their Nokia partnership), Blackberry, Samsung’s bada, and then maybe BREW, perhaps still a little bit of Symbian and J2ME. But then there are also the still mighty gatekeepers, the mobile operators.

And then you will see that users tend to want to have it their specific way, ideally localized. The plethora of channels thus created makes it tough on a developer to maneuver its way through… There are tools that can aid progress (and, yes, our very own Scoreloop provides some of them) but it is important to recognize the complexity of it all. Reaching users and convincing them with compelling offers is key to success in any world. It is important to bear that in mind in mobile, too. And if you think you cannot walk it on your own, a publisher might just be the right partner for you. “

Lastly, Volker provides a very informative presentation on mobile social game users via SlideShare here

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Filed under acquisition, Angry Birds, Apple, Capcom, Facebook, Flurry, game, gaming, iPad, iPhone, mobile, ngmoco, Open Feint, social games, Uncategorized, Zynga

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