Worldwide mobile game sales are forecast to pass USD$5.6 billion in 2010, according to research firm Gartner, which would represent a 19 per cent increase from 2009 revenue figures of $4.7 billion.
The forecast comes despite the fact that most games downloaded by consumers were 'free'. Gartner says the mobile games industry will continue to soar through to 2014, when the market is expected to hit sales figures of $11.4 billion.
"The hype around mobile application stores has opened this market up to numerous publishers and developers — further expanding revenue potential and competition in this industry," said Tuong Nguyen, principal research analyst at Gartner.
Gartner says that around 70 to 80 per cent of apps downloaded by consumers are mobile games with 60 to 70 percent of these being free. This is a trend that will continue for at least the next two to three years according to Gartner.
However, Gartner does not believe that embedded advertisements in games would become more commonplace in mobile game applications. "Although we expect most mobile gamers to continue to gravitate toward 'free' games, we do not expect the ad-supported model to take off within the next three years — despite the success we have seen with this approach in the Japanese market," said Nguyen.
Improved user interfaces and handset compatibility have been some of the factors that have led to the increase in the mobile gaming market. According to Gartner, touchscreen mobiles, accelerometer-equipped handsets, use of the phones' cameras, inbuilt GPS and enhanced QWERTY keyboards are improving the gaming experience.
Nguyen says that new devices like the Apple iPad would continue to expand the mobile gaming market along with dedicated mobile application stores. "Users from developing markets will also benefit as more-capable phones move down-market. Moreover, as more devices become connected, consumer electronic devices, such as tablets and portable gaming consoles, will join this space, adding another aspect to the market," Nguyen said.