Smartphones Fuel Gaming Industry Boom
Gaming is no longer the domain of an obsessed male teenage geek locked away in a dark room.
The spread of more sophisticated and powerful smartphones with touchscreens and more social multi-player games has opened up gaming to women and older players, sparking a boom in the interactive gaming business.
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The fastest growing regional market for interactive gaming is China, Japan and South Korea.
Australian game developers such as Halfbrick Studios – known for the highly successful Fruit Ninja game which has more than 300 million downloads – are looking to build on their success by pushing further into the lucrative Chinese market.
Financial services provider PricewaterhouseCoopers said in its recent outlook for the Australian media and entertainment sector that the interactive games market is expected to grow from about $1.65 billion in 2012 to $2.2 billion in 2016.
Growth in consumer spending in the interactive games sector was second only to the internet and was outstripping subscription television.
Comparatively, films, magazines and newspapers were all in decline.
Globally, the interactive gaming market was expected to rise from $60.3 billion in 2012 to $80.3 billion in 2016 – higher growth than for all other media and entertainment sectors except the internet.
PwC executive director Megan Brownlow said the market for console games – off-the-shelf hardware and software bought in-store – was pretty mature.
But the advent of smartphones had generated a surge in mobile or “casual” gaming.
“It (the spread of smart phones) has allowed the developers to bypass the big publishers and create smaller, cheaper games from their garages and their bedrooms and populise them directly to the platforms like the app (application) stores and get direct access to the gaming community,” Ms Brownlow said.
At around $1.99, prices for mobile games were far cheaper that console games, which could cost $80 or more.
Ms Brownlow said games that could also be played on social platforms like Facebook were booming.
“One of the reasons that is driving the growth of both mobile and social games is the fact that they are attractive to non-traditional gaming segments,” she said.
“Your console players were traditionally blokes and probably under 35.
“Mobile and social games have opened up the interactive gaming market to women and older people.”
By 2016 online games were expected to replace console games as the largest gaming category.
The PwC report said several high-profile games development studios in Australia had closed during 2011, partly as a result of increasing costs associated with the high Australian dollar and loss of work to locations offering tax cuts.
However, on the plus side, this had released many games creators from “developer for hire” roles to work independently on mobile games.
Also, Australian developers would be more likely now to be able to retain creative control over their mobile or online games because they were cheaper to develop than the more sophisticated console games and could be funded without assistance from big publishers or governments
Ms Brownlow said Australia was in a great position to take advantage of the growing Asian markets.
“For a small population, we punch above our weight in terms of creativity and talent, and I think that’s certainly true in the games development area,” she said.
Australian games developer Halfbrick Studios wants to expand its market in China in the wake of the huge success there of its global hit, Fruit Ninja.
In Fruit Ninja, the player slices fruit that is thrown into the air by swiping their finger over their mobile device’s touchscreen.
Halfbrick chief marketing officer Phil Larsen said there were now 300 million Fruit Ninja players around the world.
“The Asian market, particularly China, is so massive,” he said.
“Fruit Ninja is actually the number one game in China right now, so we’ve got a lot of opportunities there.”
The Chinese market was potentially worth tens of millions of dollars, if not hundreds of millions.
Mr Larsen said mobile platforms such as iPhone, iPad and android devices had opened up distribution channels for games like nothing else before them.
Previously, to play a game one would need a console, an Xbox or PlayStation and have to go to a store to buy a game.
Now, games are easily downloaded from the internet onto a mobile device and spread across personal computers and television.
Games are connected between friends and played anywhere.
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