Although downloadable applications have proved popular with consumers, the numbers are still tiny relative to the traditional console and handheld gaming business. The few publicly available numbers reveal that the market has so far barely touched the mobile owning mainstream, except of course in Korea and Japan. According to Screen Digest estimates, in 2003 these two countries accounted for 80% of worldwide games download revenues of 380 mln euros. But the vast majority of major operators in North America and Europe have now established games download services on their networks.
The penetration of Java handsets is also rising fast in these markets, such that Screen Digest expects games-enabled handsets to have risen three-fold in Western Europe to 110 mln by the end of 2004, and more than double in North America to 70 mln. Screen Digest expects download spending outside the Far East to really take off in 2005. Whilst games download spending for Japan and Korea combined is expected to grow by around 50% in 2004 (to 446 mln euros), Western Europe and North America combined is forecast to grow at 10 times that rate. A 500% jump will result in games download spending in these two regions of 332 mln euros in 2004.
Although seriously trimmed, Japan and Korea’s majority share of worldwide mobile games market will remain in place for another year. Japan and Korea will have accounted for 51% of global spending in 2004. Screen Digest anticipates the wireless games download market will be worth around 880 mln euros ($1,070 mln) in 2004, breaking the bln-dollar barrier for the first time. Despite explosive growth in Western Europe and North America this year in particular, the researchers do not expect combined spending in these two markets to exceed spending in Japan/Korea until 2006 at the earliest. One of the contributing factors is the level of advancement of the mobile universe. In terms of games-enabled handset penetration, Western Europe and North America are around 2-3 years behind these Far East markets.