One of the key themes of Gameloft boss Michel Guillemot's keynote speech at GDC Mobile yesterday was the idea that the mobile games market did flatten out at the end of 2007, but that it'll start growing again in the second half of this year.
Now industry analyst M:Metrics has released figures that appear to support his view. The company says that while more people are playing mobile games, the number of people actually downloading new titles has remained flat over the last year.
Specifically, M:Metrics says that in the UK 28.7 per cent of mobile users played a mobile game in December – compared to, er, 29.1 per cent in December 2006.
In the same time period the percentage of users who played games they'd previously downloaded stayed flat at 10.6 per cent in December.
Worse still (if you're a publisher), M:Metrics reckons that in December 2007, 4.6 per cent of UK mobile users downloaded a game, compared to 4.9 per cent in December 2006.
There are bright spots. Take the 22.9 per cent of UK users who played a native or preloaded game in December 2007, indicating that free trials embedded on handsets might provide a source of new sales if they include links to download the full thing.
Meanwhile, the evidence suggests smartphone owners are more likely to play downloaded games – although this is balanced out by the fact that smartphone games are more easily pirateable online.
"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," says M:Metrics' Seamus 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 subsidised gaming, and physical distribution."