iPhone making big dent in mobile gaming market

According to mobile analytics firm Flurry, iPhone OS devices have rapidly risen to prominence as a gaming platform, acquiring significant market share at the expense of the industry’s existing firms.

Flurry published a research study on its blog which says that mobile gaming has grown from 20 percent of the overall U.S. gaming market to 24 percent in the last year. More importantly, the growth has apparently been fueled entirely by the iPod touch and iPhone, which have also stolen share that previously belonged to their rivals.

If the field is narrowed to portable gaming platforms only, Apple’s mobile devices commanded a respectable 19 percent of the market in 2009, up from the 5 percent it had secured in 2008. This means that almost one dollar of every five in mobile games was spent on iPhones and iPod touches rather than on, say, Sony’s PlayStation Portable, whose market share dropped from 20 percent to 11 percent over the same period. That’s still a far cry from the market leader, however: the Nintendo DS commanded an impressive 70 percent of the mobile market, although its share did from the 75 percent it held in 2008.

If the figures collected by Flurry are correct and the overall mobile gaming market is worth $2.55 billion, Apple’s share is worth a little over $600 million. This makes iPhone OS a highly disruptive platform in the gaming industry because of its high accessibility to developers of all size and financial means: platforms like the DS and PSP often require a significant initial investment in expensive development kits. Not to mention the fact that games designed to run on them are only distributed on physical media through traditional channels, where they fight for shelf space alongside titles with significantly higher marketing budgets. By contrast, participation Apple’s $99 iPhone OS developer program is all that’s required to publish and distribute a game through the App Store. Plus, shelf space is unlimited and large developers have few opportunities to buy their way to better positioning.

While Flurry’s numbers are impressive, they were compiled using sets of publicly available but unrelated data and should, therefore, be taken with the proverbial grain of salt. Nonetheless, it’s clear that Apple is making a big dent in the gaming market, and hopefully lowering the barrier of entry will allow game developers to invest more of their money in creating ever more appealing products.

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