Games app downloads to smartphones and tablets are set to grow significantly over the next four years, according to a new report by analyst Juniper Research which projects there will be 64.1 billion such downloads in 2017 — more than three times the 21 billion downloaded in 2012. Key drivers powering this high rate of growth are increasing numbers of free-to-play releases (aka the freemium business model), as well as more sophisticated devices and the continued global uptake of smartphones, says the analyst.
The dominance of freemium as a games app business model is very evident from the analyst’s figures: in 2017, it expects just 7% of games to be paid for at the point of purchase, across smartphones and tablets. In-app purchases and/or advertising are presumably how games developers will be mostly earning a buck.
Juniper says mobile will become the primary screen for gamers, thanks to an increase in the number of “sophisticated games, which allow for truly multi-platform gameplay through the use of cloud technology”. Growth in the quantity of memory on devices is also enabling consumers to download more games. And while Juniper is not expecting smartphones and tablets to kill off dedicated portable gaming devices, it says there’s no doubt consumer mobiles are challenging and eroding the latter market — with players such as Nintendo cutting its sales forecasts by 14% for its 3DS, and 27% for its Wii U.
Social & Casual games will remain the most popular genre downloaded, according to Juniper’s forecast — with over half of all smartphone games downloaded fitting this genre. That’s in keeping with the key characteristics of mobile devices: always-on connectivity, which means being wired in to social services; and portability, meaning these devices are suited for short bursts of casual gaming to kill time.
Looking specifically at tablets, Juniper found their users are especially keen on downloading games, with more than twice the number of games downloads to tablets than smartphones. “Tablet games are growing so much because they are such an accessible way for all consumer segments to access games. In particular mid-core gamers, who previously spent a lot of money and time playing games but now have jobs, families or other commitments, are driving this trend,” commented report author Siân Rowlands in a statement. “These people are really embracing the tablet form factor, and innovative gameplay devices such as the mobile based OUYA console, really appeal to them.”