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Growing Adoption of Smartphone Content

While more people are playing mobile games than ever before, the percentage of people downloading a new game did not increase over the past year in the United States and Western Europe, according to the latest M:Metrics market study.

Nearly three fourths of the 98.4 million people in France, Germany, Italy, Spain, the United Kingdom and the U.S. that played a mobile game in December played a game that was found natively on the device -- demonstrating an untapped potential for downloaded content.

M:Metrics reports that 38.5 million, or 8.8 percent of, mobile subscribers played a game they had downloaded and stored on their phone, that number has been relatively flat from the year before, when 35.3 million, or 8.7 percent, played a downloaded game.

Only 14.4 million, or 3.3 percent of, mobile subscribers in the United States and Western Europe downloaded a game in the month, versus 14.6 million (3.6 percent) in December 2006. At 12.7 percent, Spain has the highest penetration of those playing a downloaded game, and the highest rate of mobile games downloads, at 5.6 percent. France lags all other markets, at 3.5 percent playing a downloaded game and 1.3 percent downloading a new game in the month.

"One of the greatest challenges facing publishers by the growing adoption of smartphones is the wide availability of free or pirated content for these devices," said Seamus McAteer, chief product architect and senior analyst, M:Metrics.

Smartphones have become increasingly mainstream, due to an influx of consumer-friendly productivity devices such as the BlackBerry Pearl, and Samsung Blackjack, as well as media-centric devices such as the Apple iPhone and Nokia N-Series handsets.

Smartphone owners are more avid users of mobile content than are owners of feature phones, and this usage extends beyond e-mail and mobile browser usage to gaming and other forms of mobile entertainment. For example in the UK about 17 percent of smartphone owners played downloaded games in a month during the fourth quarter of 2007 compared with 9.8 percent of non-smartphone owners, reports M:Metrics.

"While these devices lend themselves to mobile media consumption, the openness of smart platforms opens up the Internet and frees consumers from the operator deck," observed McAteer. "To succeed in such a market game publishers will have to foster new models that may include subscriptions to online gaming communities, ad-funded or subsidized gaming, and physical distribution."

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