MGF 2010: 10 trends on iPhone Gaming

The Dredge report

MGF 2010: 10 trends on iPhone Gaming
Kicking off the second day of the Mobile Games Forum was journalist Stuart Dredge with his 10 trends on iPhone Gaming.

The slides from the presentation are available online at

1. iPhone Games Goldrush

There are 50 million iDevices and 3 billions apps have been downloaded. Some companies are making money. Gameloft announced it had sold 10 million games in 2009.

The analysts are excited about this space, and talking big numbers. For example, DFC predicts iPhone game sales of $2.4 billion by 2014, which would be 24 percent of handheld market.

2. Heavy usage but ferocious competition

According to AppsFire, the average iPhone user has downloaded 65 apps, spending $80. And iPhone owners buy and play more games than other mobile and smartphone users.

There's massive amount of competition in all iPhone genres though i.e. there are 8,000 puzzles games. But how many games are actually played and for how long? Flurry suggests only 16 percent of games are played after 90 days. There's a real hunger for news games.

3. Piracy and IP infringement

24/7 Wall Street predicted that there's been $450 million in lost iPhone game sales but are these figures correct? Often developers complain about massive piracy in the launch week - 80% in first week, Orbital 80 percent, Rally Master Pro 95 percent - but this drops off a lot in the longer term.

So can you stop piracy? Or does it make more sense to try and turn pirates into paying customers?

In music, the solution is to introduce better consumer experience such as Spotify but with iPhone games the experience on App Store is already good, so there's less opportunity.

A more interesting subject perhaps is IP infringement, which was seen in 2009 in the cases of Edge, Edgy, Killer Edge vs Tim Langdell and the Stoneloops! of Jurassica vs Luxor case. What's significant is that Apple is playing judge and jury in these cases, which is an interesting role for an app store owner to take.

It's also likely that there will be more lawsuits in 2010 as console companies bring their big IPs to the App Store.

4. Pricing evolution

During 2009 we saw the Dive To 99c but at the same time, EA Mobile has managed to release $9.99 games and indie game Canabalt was priced and successful at $2.99. There's also the opportunity in terms of social games which sell experience points. Moving in the other direction is cutting the price of games to 99c to get them into the top 100 - Peggling.

Other options include freemium (Eliminate, Skies of Glory, and Tap Tap Revenge 3). It's not clear how well this works in the longterm though. In-app payments have had some success. For example Pocket God. There's also the opportunity for advertising. Backflip Studios is making $125k/month.

We may see games breaking the $10 barrier in 2010. Ubisoft briefly/accidentally? released Assassin's Creed II at a higher price.

5. Promotion and discovery

Publishers and developers are having to become savvy about marketing, which they never had to do with the old carrier model. Games are a service and you have to talk to your audience.

There are also collaboration between developers such as the Appvent Calender, which has become FreeAppaDay, where you get a free game per day. Cross promotion of games is becoming important for publishers to drive their audience, which helps for discovery and means the chart are less important.

Apple's Genius isn't talked about much but there are apps such as Chorus, Chomp, Appolicious and Apptizr which are trying to fill those gaps with social recommendations amongst your friends.

6. Social and connectivity

Social game platforms are bringing Xbox Live features to iPhone. There's a discussion about whether these should be white label and skinnable or their own brand (or the balance between the two). For example, Scoreloop and OpenFeint have released standalone apps. These platforms are also working as promotional options, which is something that will develop in 2010 i.e. OpenFeint's gold scheme.

There's the potential for more integration with Facebook. Zynga and Playfish haven't made a big play to bring their successful games to iPhone. Why?

In reverse , iPhone publishers such as ngmoco, Glu, Digital Chocolate are moving on Facebook.

7. Publishing shake up

Console firms are entering the App Store - Activision, Rockstar, Ubisoft. The App Store is a huge melting point which a lot of different types of companies are entering.

Equally, successful iPhone games are moving to other platforms - Fieldrunners on PSP Minis - so publishers and developers will go cross-platform onto smartphones. Meanwhile developers such as Tag and Bulkypix are becoming publishers

8. What will Apple do?

In 2009, it introduced the Top Grossing chart, Genius and redesigned iTunes. It also streamlined the approvals process.

There are plenty of questions to be answered in 2010 though.

Will Apple make its own iPhone games? This would have a huge impact.

Will it develop/buy its own social network?

Will it take more control of app advertising following the Quattro deal?

What does iSlate mean for games?

9. Importance of iPod touch

Now iPod touch is a real rival to DS and PSP because it's marketed as a games machine. It's Apple's Trojan horse. But you can't guarantee that users have connectivity and they don't upgrade their OS so quickly so there are problems.

10. Rise of the not quite games

The gamefication of entertainment is happening with location-based apps such as Foursquare, Gowalla and MyTown, which are getting a lot of investment and users. There's a lot of buzz around augmented reality apps, which is receiving VC money too.

Contributing Editor

A Pocket Gamer co-founder, Jon is Contributing Editor at which means he acts like a slightly confused uncle who's forgotten where he's left his glasses. As well as letters and cameras, he likes imaginary numbers and legumes.