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How competitive is the UK mobile gaming industry?

Competition in the market is fierce, with the introduction of tax relief legislation for UK gaming companies, there have been many new entrants to the market.


woman with smartphone in nature

Mobile gaming has come a long way in the last two decades, simple games from the 90’s with basic features and non-complex graphics, such as Tetris and Snake, have paved the way for more advanced games like Angry Birds and Pokémon Go on modern devices. This industry has seen rapid growth in recent years. The mobile gaming industry was worth an impressive £993 million in 2018 and is expected to reach over £1 billion this year. By 2023, this figure is predicted to grow by 61%, reaching a staggering £1.65 billion in the UK alone. Technological advances, increased financial investment and the availability of smartphones are all contributors to this significant rate of growth.

Competition in the market is fierce, with the introduction of tax relief legislation for UK gaming companies, there have been many new entrants to the market. Over 20,000 people are now employed in games companies on a full-time basis.

In response to increased competition, game companies are using new methods to entice new players, one example of this is instant gaming. Instant games do not need to be downloaded through a mobile app store, which benefits users as they are able to experiment with new games easily. While Facebook was an early mover in this gaming experience in 2018, it has since been developed on competitor platforms such as Google. Instant gaming does not only benefit social media platforms, as social providers begin to fulfil the role of app stores, game developers are exposed to the platform’s massive user base.

Who is playing mobile games, and what types of games do UK players want most?

Mobile gaming is a hugely popular pastime for many, due to the small size and fast speed capabilities of handheld devices, they can be played on the go. Smartphone games now possess 41% of the market, overtaking console games which have a 25% market share and download or boxed PC games with a 21% share.

Over 27 million smartphone and tablet owners in the UK play games on their devices. Recent research shows that while 90% of gamers are those aged 16 to 24, there is a rising number of players aged 65 and over. Surprisingly, around 30% of smartphone owners in the 65 and over category play mobile games on a regular basis. This illustrates how the industry is beginning to attract a wider audience as the amount and variety of gaming experiences has increased.

One type of gaming that attracts a wide player base is mobile bingo, the number of people playing bingo online has grown rapidly in recent years as many more websites and apps have popped up with different themes and game types. There are now an estimated 3.5 million online bingo players in the UK alone.

However, as online bingo products have become so competitive, players sometimes have difficulty in deciding between the vast array of sites on offer. Bingo affiliate websites leverage this opportunity and help consumers identify the great deals and promotions. No deposit bingo benefits both new beginners and more experienced players looking for more games to enjoy, they allow users to try out new bingo sites without having to input their own money from the start. Offering bingo no deposit promotions allows bingo operators to reach more people and increases their chances of being featured on affiliate sites.

Other mobile game genres that are increasing in popularity are puzzle games, alternate reality games (AR) and action or strategy games. Matching puzzles, such as Bejewelled and Candy Crush, receive an astonishing 30 million unique users per month. This is closely followed by AR games like Pokémon Go, which are played by up to 29 million users per month. Strategy games are third most popular with 13 million monthly users.

The future of the mobile gaming industry - how can companies stay competitive?

people at the office laughing with the smartphone

With such fierce competition, mobile game developers and operators must find new ways of attracting players. One of the ways of achieving this could be through offering games with more language options. Currently, only 13% of iOS games are multilingual. 75% of non-English speakers have expressed that they want games that they can play in their native tongue, with 67% of these stating they would be happy if only some elements of the game, including navigation features, were to be in their language. If UK companies were to utilise this gap, they would be able to establish themselves in diverse and international markets.

Mobile gaming companies must also be aware of the amount and variety in free games and non-pay to win games on offer, both online and from iOS and android app stores. By including too many paid features, they may risk pricing themselves out of the market. This does not mean to say that companies must only offer free play, once they have established a base of customers who have repeated play their game, offering features like premium membership with no-ads is likely to be welcomed by their most loyal players.

Monitoring game performance is also a key way for companies to stay competitive. Games that are animation and media heavy often suffer from slow performance, which has a very negative impact on game play. Through investing in mobile application performance tools, developers can identify issues and roll out new updates to keep players satisfied.

The UK mobile gaming industry is constantly changing and has become increasingly competitive. As technological advances have presented many opportunities for new types and more varieties of games, more people have become interested in playing games on mobile rather than on consoles or PCs. However, as there have been many new entrants to the market, companies must work even harder to offer games that perform well and offer unique features. This is great for consumers, as the gaming options available to them are now better than ever.

Market and Economy