Here’s what’s really interesting about NPD’s press release, and you don’t see it until you’ve read to the very bottom:
Despite the portable nature of all the devices surveyed, the top location for each device was in-home, which indicates that these devices may be competing with more stationary entertainment devices for a user’s time.
Do you play your PSP more than your PS3 or Xbox 360? Your Nintendo DS more than your Wii?
Mobile gaming is big money. In June 2007, Gartner predicted worldwide mobile gaming revenue would grow from $2.9 billion in 2006 to $9.6 billion in 2011. It hit $3.9 billion in 2007. This summer Gartner dropped another prediction, suggesting we’ll see upwards of $4.5 billion by the end of 2008. Sure, that’s not the $40 billion the global video games industry was estimated to be worth at the end of 2007, but then, any number with the word “billion” after it should make you sit up straight and pay attention.
Let’s move past dedicated handheld systems and over to mobile phones and audio-video hybrids like Apple’s iPod. Do you pop your little Star Trek communicators (that’s what they still look like to me) out in a crowd and pull up the latest “top download” on the bus or train to work? Monopoly World? Worms 2008: A Space Oddity? Guitar Hero III Mobile? DOOM RPG?
According to the NPD report, more smartphone owners are playing games than using business related applications on their mobiles. Phone calls and text messaging still beat all, with music yielding “the highest average for purchase/download volume ranging between 4.2 and 6.0 purchases/downloading in a typical month.” (Well yeah, but wait until Apple finally gets The Beatles remastered up and running.)
Another curious wrinkle: Of all the applications iPhone owners use, games saw the greatest increase over the last three months. Why Apple’s taken so long to put some fuel in that tank given the forehead-slapping market potential is a real head-scratcher. Then again, just look at the sorry, perpetually tardy state of gaming under OS X (despite the perennial rise in Mac desktop and laptop unit sales) and there’s half the answer.