Four out of five mobile phone users will be playing internet-linked games on their handsets by 2005, according to new research.
Datamonitor predicts that the market will grow from next to nothing this year to one worth $6bn by 2005, with 127 million mobile gamers in western Europe and 73 million in the US.
Frederic Diot, a consultant at the researcher, said at the ECTS video games trade show in London this week that the trend would be led by classic games such as cards and quizzes. More sophisticated gaming will follow when general packet radio service technology becomes widely available, with 'always on' and location based services, he said.
However, he refuted claims that Wap-based mobile internet use was too slow and basic for gaming. "I don't care - there will be other technologies," he said.
Diot said the $6bn market would include revenue generated by mobile operators and software developers from airtime, advertising and sponsorship. Gamers are unlikely to want to pay for these games, he added.
"Mobile games will have to be fresh, short, relevant and rewarding and they will have to be free, or at a minimal cost, to be successful. Only a small proportion of mobile phone gamers will pay to play games," he said.
Companies are already planning to sell code that will be incorporated into mobile phones to enable the playing of arcade games by as early as next year, Infusio's ExEn system being an example.
Although it does not suggest that mobiles will replace consoles, Datamonitor's figures raised a few eyebrows.
The entire European video games software market for both consoles and PCs generated $5.96bn in 1999, according to a report published on Sunday by the European Leisure Software Publishers Association and compiled by Screen Digest.
It predicts that the European console games software market will hit a peak of $5bn in 2003, driven by the arrival of new devices from Sega, Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo, but will consolidate in the following two years.
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