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Mobile Gaming in the UK Grabs the Controller

The 'freemium' model drives purchases

With smartphone and tablet ownership becoming more widespread, legions of UK consumers are never more than a short reach away from a bout of game playing, according to a new eMarketer report, “UK Mobile Gaming: Rising Participation and Purchasing Rates Show Play Can Pay.”

Research from the UK’s Office of Communications showed that the proportion of UK consumers playing games on a mobile phone more than doubled (6% to 13%) between 2009 and 2012, while the percentage playing games on a tablet grew from nonexistent in 2009 to 5% in 2012.

Mobile devices’ ability to provide anywhere, anytime game play, coupled with a significant lag in the rollout of new video game consoles, has had an impact on the wider video game ecosystem, including spurring a move by some longtime gamers away from console and computer games to mobile alternatives.

UK consumers’ growing adoption of mobile gaming is evident when examining video game spending trends. Of the £1.04 billion (around $1.65 billion) that was expected to be spent on video games in the UK last year, IHS Screen Digest predicted that £300 million (nearly $476.2 million) would come from mobile game sales, a figure triple that of 2010’s mobile game spending.

An April 2013 WorldPay study found that 77% of digital buyers worldwide believed that “freemium” models—a free-to-download game but with in-game purchases to unlock advanced features or improve one’s abilities—would encourage them to try new services and content. Consequently, the mobile gaming trend is moving toward free games.

And according to comScore MobiLens polling in April 2013, the freemium model seems to be working when it comes to driving purchases: The number of mobile gamers making in-app purchases rose 51% to 2.2 million.

While in-game ad investment is small compared with other forms of digital display advertising, studies show mobile device users have good recall of the in-game ads they see. For example, according to April 2013 research by comScore in collaboration with the UK’s Mobile Marketing Association, more smartphone gamers recalled seeing an in-game ad (40% vs. 29%), and more converted (18%) in response to in-game ads than did after seeing an ad in-app or in a mobile browser (15%).


The full report, “UK Mobile Gaming: Rising Participation and Purchasing Rates Show Play Can Pay,” also answers these key questions:

  • What are the demographics of the UK’s mobile gamers?
  • What are the differences between its smartphone and tablet gamers?
  • How responsive are UK mobile gamers to in-game advertising?
  • Are brands taking an interest in mobile gaming?

This report is available to eMarketer corporate subscription clients only. eMarketer clients, log in and view the report now.

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