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More than half of all US mobile phone users—about 125.9 million people or 39.8% of the total US population—will play games on their phones this year, as the ongoing explosion in usage pushes mobile gaming revenues to $1.78 billion in the US, according to new figures from eMarketer.
Mobile gaming has been a high-growth market in recent years, with revenues increasing at triple-digit rates in 2012 and 2011. But even as the market grows more mature, double-digit growth rates are anticipated in coming years, with revenues expected to reach $3.77 billion by 2017.
This year, the largest share of revenues will come from downloads of games themselves, with in-game purchases accounting for just slightly less. Ad revenues will be relatively low, at $297 million this year. Of all three types of mobile game revenues, ad revenues grew the fastest last year and will do the same again in 2013.
This will help boost the share of total mobile gaming revenues that come from ads, though in-game purchases will grow even more quickly between 2014 and 2017. By the end of eMarketer’s forecast period, in-game purchases will make up nearly half of all mobile gaming revenues in the US, with another 17.4% coming from ads. Revenues from game purchases will be about twice that coming from mobile gaming ads.
While eMarketer’s revenue figures include dollars from games played on both mobile phones and tablets, eMarketer believes mobile phones likely account for a more significant share of mobile gaming revenues. Mobile gaming on phones has grown enormously in recent years, and double-digit growth rates will continue into 2015, when half of all US residents are expected to play games via their mobile phone at least once per month.
Despite its already large size, the US mobile phone gaming audience is growing much more rapidly than audiences in the more mature categories of social, online casual and online console gaming. Most consumers have adopted mobile games effortlessly, given that the majority of them are available for free or at very little cost. They also offer convenient access through their inherent portability.
The rise in smartphone ownership has boosted and will continue to drive mobile gaming’s rapid growth. In 2013, 82.3% of all mobile phone gamers will be smartphone gamers, compared with 17.7% who will access games via feature phone. By 2017, smartphone gamers will account for 90% of all mobile phone gamers in the US.
In 2011 and 2012, the number of US smartphone gamers skyrocketed, fueled by the high gains in the number of smartphone owners combined with the spread of new viral games. Growth has slowed following these massive increases but will remain high through 2017 as the number of smartphone users continues to rise and developers continue to tailor their offerings to smartphone gamers.
eMarketer forms its estimates of mobile gaming revenues based on the analysis of reported revenues from company releases; estimates from other research firms; mobile content usage trends; and eMarketer interviews with executives at brands, publishers and other industry leaders. Estimates of the mobile phone gaming audience are based on the analysis of survey and traffic data from research firms and regulatory agencies, historical trends, company-specific data, and demographic and socioeconomic factors.
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