Players with Handsets, Handsets that Play
24. 11. 2011.
Currently the most popular items in mobile app stores are mobile games. Games of skill and logic are the most popular among users, especially if they also have multiuser capabilities. At the end of August 2011 there were 2.4 million smartphones in use in Hungary, which is 25% of the 9.6 million total inventory, reveals the GKIeNET – T-Mobile Report on the Internet Economy.
The decision is with the player, not the handset manufacturer
Ever since the nineties, mobile games have played a key role in the overwhelming success or rapid failure of mobile handsets. The breakthrough for players, however, came with the emergence of smartphones, which are capable of running programs with graphics and processing requirements that are more complex than earlier ones. In order to unleash the creativity of game developers, however, it was necessary to find an environment where the choice about which game was popular lay with the consumer rather than the manufacturer. This kind of freedom has been achieved with the emergence of platform-specific app stores, where the only requirement is that developers adhere to the baseline standards of the platform owners. The emergence of the application markets was a true breakthrough relative to the earlier Java-based games that were also freely installable, because of improvements in usability and simplicity. Today anyone can produce and sell games for smartphones, making it possible for games to develop independently, without interference by the handset manufacturers.
Competing platforms and app stores
Mobile games mushroomed in this environment, and they are currently the most popular products in mobile app stores. Categories include athletics, cars and motor sports, role play and strategic games, as well as logic games and massively multiplayer online (MMO) games and even card games and games of skill. A 2011 Nielsen study states that gaming apps make up 64% of the downloads from the app stores of the three currently most popular platforms (iOS, Android and Windows Phone 7)
Share of games in the most popular applications by category on android market
Top lists of applications are mostly made up of gaming apps. For example nine of the ten most popular mobile programs in the App Store are games. It is particularly interesting that three of the ten most lucrative apps on the Android Market are also gaming apps, and all three of them are free meaning that they generate revenue for the publisher and the online store through their micro-transaction services.
Mobile games have also become social experiences
Games of skill and logic are undoubtedly among the most popular downloadable mobile games, which is due in part to the extent of this category; these are the most widespread games (card, sports and competitive games are considered specialized groups). The success of the popular games is largely attributable to their addictive nature or the humor involved. At the same time, complex control techniques are becoming more and more crucial for users due to the built-in motion sensors in smartphones.
The implementation of social functions increasingly motivate players to rerun games. The old “I played and succeeded” mentality is now often being replaced by the desire and possibility to share among those who play on smartphones: players have the opportunity to compete against each other by sharing their scores, while single-player games have a “Hall of Fame” function. Game developers and game publishers are trying to transform their games into new experiences that allow the sharing of results, creating a stronger bond between the game and the players. In terms of social model, games can be categorized in four groups.
- Single-player games. Games played by one player alone; does not allow or support the sharing of scores. Results achieved by a player do not stimulate other players to get better scores.
- Result share games. Single-player games that allow or support a function to share game results; scores stimulate other players to do better.
- Contribution games. Multi-player games in which players play the game alone, more or less independently from other players, however, their actions can affect other players.
- Player vs. Player games. Live multi-player games in which players play together simultaneously through continuous data exchange or Internet connection.
Price does make a difference
In the case of fee-based games, pricing also plays a key role when it comes to choosing the users. Card and gambling games are the most expensive ones on the top lists of each category (4 games in the TOP 5 cost more than 1,000 forints). The majority of non-free games can be purchased for the equivalent of 400-600 forints on average (prices are already listed in forints on the Android market). Top lists in the categories of skill and logic games offer the least expensive items, which is a necessary but not sufficient condition for the overall success of these categories.
Smartphones on the rise
As seen elsewhere, mobile games have been rapidly gaining popularity in Hungary, as well, thanks to the increasing penetration of smartphones. 26% of all mobile phone owners play on their handsets on a regular basis (at least once a week). The population aged between 18 and 49 years makes up the majority of players, although there are no exact data on the percentage of regular players under 18 years, given that the devices used by children belong to their parents according to the contract.
Based on data available to GKIeNET, 84% of the Hungarian population used mobile phones at the end of August 2011; the number of people above the age of 18 with a mobile phone contract totaled 6.8 million. The number of active mobile handsets amounts to 9,6 million (not to be confused with the number of active SIM cards), while the number of smartphones in use is approximately 2.4 million, making up 25% of the total number of mobile phones in use. On annual average, smartphone sales will likely account for some 40% of all new cell phone sales in 2011, (domestically, new mobile phone sales are expected at 2.2-2.5 million this year, of which some 900 thousand to 1 million are smartphones).
What’s a Smartphone?
Service providers and handset manufacturers alike are using the phrase smartphone to describe the latest generation of phones with many capabilities not found in traditional phones. However, in order to have a unified (international) framework to track usage patterns, it would be necessary to have a unified definition behind the expression. In GKIeNET’s view any mobile phone with the following characteristics is a smartphone.
- It runs an operating system: smartphones are capable of running one of the 6 large operating systems (OS). The common feature of these is that they have been optimized for hardware items characteristic of mobile environments. Also they have a development environment (SDK) that makes it possible for third parties to write apps that take advantage of the hardware in the phone.
- Apps can be downloaded: as indicated in the previous section, simple mobile phones are only capable of running functions integrated into their software, meaning they can only be functionally expanded by the manufacturers. By contrast, if a mobile phone is running an OS, anyone can expand the range of products on offer (in efforts that are usually independent of the maker of the phone or the operating system).
- It has internet access: the mobile phone is capable of accessing a third generation and/or next generation mobile network. In addition, many smartphones can connect to WiFi hotspots as well.
Optional but important smartphone characteristics:
- Full keyboards: most smartphones these days have a full QWERTY keyboard where each letter has a button of its own, meaning that each letter is accessible directly, without using special function keys, making text entry faster. Depending on whether the phone has a touch screen, the keyboard can be physical or virtual.
- E-mail clients (can) run on them: in addition to text messaging, which is available even on simple mobile phones, these smartphones also offer access to various email clients (partly because of the downloadable applications), making it possible to handle electronic mailboxes in real time.