Cell Phone Gamers: A Curiously Hollow Core

Posted by joefunk :: Industry Trends | Mobile Gaming | Usage Statistics & Measurement

Dchoclogosmh_1 While mobile gaming has brought a post-dotcom-bust boom to the videogame industry by introducing corporate heavyweights with deep pockets including handset manufactures like Nokia, LG and Motorola, and carriers such as Nextel, Verizon and Sprint, effectively marketing cell phone games to those most inclined to download and purchase them has proven to be elusive.

The challenge rises from a fundamental conundrum for cell phone game makers: hardcore gamers, who lie at the center of the marketing bulls-eye for console game publishers and advertisers, don’t really exist in such money-spending concentration in cell phone gaming. No doubt, cell phones have a healthy share of 18-34 year old males downloading 1st person shooters and driving games, but the best-selling cell phone games are, for the most part, non-flashy traditional titles like puzzle games and card games.

“We’re getting different types of people, ranging from the more traditional gamer with the action/adventure and sports categories, as well as a broader customer who’s probably a little older and more likely female with the puzzle and card & board games,” acknowledges Andrew Stein, senior manager of games and applications at Cingular Wireless.

Traffic on the major gaming websites seem to corroborate this theory: they’re not seeing anywhere near the page-views for previews of highly anticipated cell phone games as they see for console games. There is definite interest in new phone games coming out, but not the rabid, gotta-have-it interest you see in console titles.

At least one company recognizes this different kind of customer. Digital Chocolate, a wireless gaming company hatched by one of the founding fathers of EA, Trip Hawkins. His company’s slogan is brilliantly appropriate: “Seize the Minute,” and his companies titles, which include smart twists on oldschool favorites such as “WordKing Poker,” “3D Mini-Golf”, and “WordJong,” typify the sorts of games that play better on the physical limitations of the cell form as a gaming platform, and appeal to a wider audience.

Such types of games will continue to dominate the tops of the sales charts unless and until someone develops a game that takes advantage of the fact that cell phones remain the only gaming platform where everyone is connected, all the time.

The company that figures out how to tap into this might just create the killer app that has proven elusive so far for cell phone games, but will inevitably happen.


Darius Young

I see the mobile game industry headed in the same great direction that casual game downloads are at now.


thanks for your comment darius. what do you mean? do you think basic card and puzzle games will dominate the wireless gaming landscape for the forseeable future?

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