Mobile gaming is maturing fast

Granted, there are things wrong with the market for mobile games, but there are things very much right with it as well.

And amidst the confusion of new handsets, new payment methods and emerging business models, it’s easy to lose sight of how much better things are getting for the consumer, and how quickly.

The first cars used leather brakes that had to be replaced every time you went down a hill, because they burnt out. What a useless invention the car was!

The first mobile games were pretty rubbish too, played on useless handsets spectacularly ill-suited for the task.

Payment and download was hit-and-miss, you got stung for data transfer fees that cost more than the game, and probably got subscribed to a service you’d never heard of that cost 3 a week.

Games are better now; much better. Handsets are better. Data charges have fallen dramatically, and will surely fall further. The new WAP-billing standard, Payforit, is just the beginning of a much easier, more familiar set of payment options for consumers.

So does this add up to good news? It does.

If the games are good, if people want them, if people are prepared to pay for them and if they can readily get hold of them, a market for those games will exist and thrive, be sure about that.

We can see this process happening already. GAME has been selling mobile games using the MAD4Games platform for over a year. And in that year I reckon every major games retailer in the UK has started looking at ways to sell mobile games.

It would be indiscreet to name names, but believe me, every single one.

In recent months we’ve run dozens (yes, dozens) of direct-sale promotions with The Daily Mirror, The Sunday Mirror and The Sun, with women’s magazines like Reveal, Love It! and Real People, as well as the Future Publishing stable of games magazines. We’ve had some spectacular results in some surprising places, and more than 50,000 orders in just three months.

Talking to some people in the business, you get the impression that this market is doomed because it hasn’t become screamingly cashtastic since last Christmas.

But three years after the games industry started selling Spectrum and Commodore 64 games, what was it selling? Spectrum and Commodore 64 games. Contrast that with the recent launch of Halo 3.

Mobile games is going to be a great market. It doesn’t matter how much an SMS costs, or how long the operators take to send a download link.

These are just leather brakes. It’s going to be great.

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