Emerging markets are the new frontier for mobile gaming

And for once, it's not all about iPhone

Emerging markets are the new frontier for mobile gaming
Amid all the excitement around iPhone games development at GDC Mobile this year, there's a parallel trend that could be just as important for the mobile games industry going forward.

It's about countries like Brazil, Russia, India and China - or the BRIC markets as they're sometimes referred to. But it's about other countries too: anywhere, in short, where console penetration leaves something to be desired.

Why? Because in these markets, so the theory goes, mobile handsets could become the dominant gaming devices - in the home as well as on the go.

Or, in a phrase coined by Qualcomm's Mike Yuen, the GEC - Good Enough Console. More of him in a minute.

But we'll start with the ultra-topical angle. A few minutes ago, Nokia's Tero Ojanpera gave a speech early in day two of GDC Mobile, and emerging markets were very much in his thoughts.

In fact, he predicted that in 2012, 40 per cent of the games industry's revenues will come from these markets, with a big chunk of those coming from mobile games rather than console.

What's more, he said that more than a billion people will get their first ever mobile device in the next two years.

"Most of them will be living in the rural areas, but make no mistake, they want all of those exciting things that we have here and we need to provide that," he said.

Now, back to Yuen, and the startup he's involved with called Zeebo. We've written about it a couple of times, in January and then again last week.

It's an ultra-cheap games console that runs off a Qualcomm chipset, and downloads games over 3G using its BREW platform.

A games console that plays mobile games, effectively, with the likes of EA Mobile, Capcom, Com2uS and Namco Bandai already on board.

It'll launch in Brazil for around $199, with the price coming down to $150 later this year, according to CEO John Rizzo, who spoke at GDC yesterday.

Two big companies (well, Zeebo is a startup, but its main backer is huge) taking different approaches to the same opportunity: mobile gaming in markets where console hasn't got a foothold.

And of course, Apple is lurking in the background. With rumours continuing to fly about the iPhone's launch in China and India particularly, it could have its eye on getting a slice of gaming revenues in these and other emerging markets too.

Contributing Editor

Stuart is a freelance journalist and blogger who's been getting paid to write stuff since 1998. In that time, he's focused on topics ranging from Sega's Dreamcast console to robots. That's what you call versatility. (Or a short attention span.)