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Smartphones are taking the world by storm. They appear to be the fastest growing technology we have ever seen. They slowly grew to a 10% adoption rate and then something changed everything: Apple launched the iPhone. 2 years later the adoption rate reached 40% in the US. Right now nearly half the adults in the US own a smartphone.
Tablets are not doing too bad either: 1 in 4 smartphone owners owns a tablet. The tablet market is expected to reach a 40% adoption rate in the US by 2016.
Apple pioneered a new way of looking at software distribution that has deep roots in Steve Jobs’ vision of “connected consumer”. With the launch of the App Store, Apple triggered a behavior based on instant software delivery and micro payments. The great thing about the system is the seamless integration between the devices and the central market. Payments are easy to make, software installation does not require any advanced IT skills and the iOS makes it easy to operate apps.
Apple app store market was a huge success. It now features more than 500 000 apps, 66% of which are paid. This apps generated over $3.4 billion revenues Apple paid to its developers. Google Play, the Android app store, paid “only” $240 million.
Google Play is actually not the biggest retailer of Android applications. The main challenger to Apple’s reign seems to be the Amazon App Store. According to mobile analytics company Flurry, Amazon generates 89% of iTunes App Store’s revenue.
“All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy”. Jack decided he would play a game on his smartphone and now the mobile gaming industry is expected to generate $7.5 billion dollars in revenues by 2015.
Established game developers such as EA, Gameloft, Ubisoft, talented new comers such as Zynga and Konami and independent game studios jumped the wagon. They had to learn the new rules and understand the mobile users behavior as the mobile gaming industry is a new breed, where concepts such as social gaming, micro payments and in-app purchase matter. The fast growing user base expects new releases, awesome graphics, multiplayer support and the gaming companies serve them well after a few past flops.
The top grossing games share a common feature. They’re freemium. That means they’re free to install and play and generate revenue from in-app purchases. I have discussed the model in the “Social Gaming Architecture” article but let’s go over the basics again:
We should expect mobile gaming to become mainstream. With better connectivity between tablets, smartphones and TV’s we will probably see a decline in gaming consoles popularity and sales.
Because the cost of entry in such a market is rather low for now the market will see new challengers to established gaming companies. Rovio was acquired by EA after the highly popular Angry Birds game went mainstream but Rovio is just one of the many studios just trying to get into the market. I expect mobile gaming, just like social gaming was, to have a disruptive effect on the overall gaming industry.