Michel Guillemot, president and CEO of Gameloft, opened GDC today with a keynote speech that attempted to dispel the perception that the mobile games market has slowed down, but added that the sector needs to rethink its business model in order to prosper and grow.
His GDC Mobile talk was the first talk of the week-long Game Developers Conference, and offered a clear message to his contemporaries: "The good news about this industry is that it is a real industry – we’ve been progressing and we’ve been able to sell games. The existing model is still functioning. Whatever people say – there is a market there.
"There is market growth and it will continue to grow," he said, but added: "We have to clear all the roadblocks so it is easier for customers. We’re not using all our potential."
These ‘roadblocks’ ranged from consistent quality across SKUs to how games are sold to consumers. "We’re very good at losing customers as soon as we make them," he said, saying that the industry was rife with pitfalls that discourage players from enjoying mobile games.
Uneven data download costs are, he said, "crippling mobile growth" and discouraging consumers, with the price of mobile games often an unknown for consumers who pay for the game and then the cost of using bandwidth to download it. Some carriers even charge more than the cost of the game itself. "If we want to create massmarket we need to have massmarket pricing," he added.
He also said that in order to innovate the mobile industry could do with considering a change to the business model used in Japan, wherein SKUs are hosted by publishers rather than carriers. "The Japanese made it right from the beginning – they sell more games than any other market," Guillemot said, pointing out that 15 per cent of mobile users were active games players – much higher than other markets. This is where the likes of Nokia OVI, he added, will also probably be able to attract more consumers on the same principles when selling mobile gaming content in the West.
Elsewhere, he talked about maintaining quality of games across all SKUs released. Gameloft is the most prolific distributor of mobile games around the world and, according to Guillemot, the firm publishers five titles a month for 1,000 handsets, needed in 10 languages – meaning a total output of 50,000 SKUs a month. Regardless of how many or how little SKUs created, he added, each much be high-quality.
"I created this company to addres games for a mass audience," explained, adding: "But when you are a casual gamer or a nonprofessional gamer you do not accept low quality."
Mobile game developers must also be more reactive to demands from players and monitor their preferences, he added, saying that consumers were increasingly in control of the mobile market and that content providers were not setting trends. "People don’t buy new handsets to play games – primary reasons are to call their friends and also have something to wear," he said, pointing out that mobile technology is as much fashion and handset design driven as it is technological. "So we as a mobile industry have to adapt to what consumers chose from their phones."
Looking ahead, he said 2008 will be a year packed with innovation for mobile. Touch screen phones and gaming, plus advanced handsets such as the iPhone, Google Android, N-Gage and WiFI phones would be key innovation areas, and will be responsible for a new growth spurt in the market during the second half of 2008 as advanced handsets hit the market.