Game Marketing Tips, Analysis, and News

Thursday, December 30, 2010

7 Smartphone Gaming Predictions For 2011

Smartphones 2011... Produced by Photoshop.
The tech industry basically shuts down between December 25th and January 2, and so the usual spate of news becomes a trickle. What's a blogger to do except make predictions? That's how I intend to fill things out this week, with a series of prognostications for 2011. If nothing else, this will set me up for a retrospective one year hence where I can laugh at the foolishness of my younger self. Until then, here's my take on what's going to happen in the Mobile Gaming Market in 2011.

  • Smartphone games continue double-digit growth. Not a hard prediction to make, but let's go a little further: Smartphone games will pass handheld games sales numbers. There was about $1.6 billion in US sales for mobile games in 2010, and about $2.1 billion for handheld console games in 2010; with the trend lines smartphones can pass them up, if the 3DS and the PSP2 don't spawn massive software sales (which I don't think will happen). The battle is over, and smartphones have won. Handhelds just haven't figured out they're dead yet.
  • Smartphone games become a bigger market than PC games at retail. PC games were about $2.1 billion in US sales in 2010, and that was down about 19% from 2009. I expect space at retail for PC games will shrink, not expand, so smartphone games have a good shot at passing them up. Not only that, smartphones will become a bigger market than PCs this year, worldwide. We're looking at over 500 million smartphones sold in 2011, if predictions are correct. Now that's a market worth being part of.
  • Verizon adds iPhone. The rumors have reached a fever pitch, but I really start to believe when I hear from suppliers. Apple is now looking at selling around 20 million iPhones or more in 1Q, which looks like a truly astounding number for the entire year. Throw in some iPod Touches to that mix and Apple will likely more than double its iDevice installed base in one year. Whoosh.
  • A new iPhone model arrives. Have I heard rumors? Nope, just educated guessing. Apple has generally introduced a new model every year or so. Sure, they'd love to slow down and bank more profits, but the fevered pace of the smartphone business means if you're only running, someone is sprinting past you. I think Apple has to keep pushing new phone tech out there in order to keep sales up. Probably this year will see less technical innovation than the iPhone 4. I expect a faster processor, maybe more memory for the money, and reduce the price on the older technology. Oh, and a redesign to fix the antenna problem (though that seems to have been mostly forgotten). The new iPhone model probably won't arrive until summer, just in time to push the old model price down and boost sales going into the last part of the year.
  • Android outstrips Apple in units sold; Apple continues to make more money for developers. This will happen despite Apple vastly increasing its sales due to the addition of Verizon (see above). There are just more and more Android phones out there, and the competition will continue. Another release or two on the operating system will help. And I sure hope Google gets around to making in-app purchasing work, because that will be the best thing they can do for developers. But there's more than that going on: New chipsets will make smartphones even more affordable, with retail prices under $100 without a carrier subsidy. That's for a smartphone looking a lot like a Droid, and you'll be able to find them by next summer for around $75.... without a carrier subsidy. Oh, yeah, there will be a lot of those sold... and the buyers will be looking for apps.
  • Blackberry and Nokia will continue to lose smartphone market share, only faster this year. These poor companies will continue to flounder around, denying that there's a problem. Their new widgets will fix the problem... and then they come out and no one cares. The Blackberry Playbook? Will anyone even remember the name by next summer? Nokia will continue to try to get their online store moving, but will seem to forget that it won't matter unless they can sell a lot of hardware. Meanwhile developers will keep busy with their iOS and Android projects, and only if they have time on their hands worry about other markets. Which they won't.  Meanwhile, we see Windows Phone 7 and Palm making inroads in the market; they will likely eat up share from Nokia and Blackberry.
  • Data plans get cheaper. Virgin's offering a $25/month plan off contract. T-mobile has $10 a month plan. AT&T has a $15 a month plan. As the networks get built out, and carriers compete, prices will continue to drop. Tablets will only accelerate this. Cheaper data plans will be good for apps, and good for developers.

2011 looks to be a huge year if you're an app developers. But the extreme growth will probably mean little attention being paid to details like helping developers market their apps. It will be even harder to find apps in 2011, not easier, and marketing will be even more important.

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