Smartphone Usage and MMO Mobile Apps

Mashable had an interesting post a couple of months back about smartphone usage. It is titled, “Why smartphone adoption might not be as big as you think.”

They show that smartphone adoption in the US is currently running at about 17%. (In Italy it is 28%, something that will not surprise anyone who has been there – it’s the only place I’ve seen shops selling fake smartphones so that you can pretend to have one even if you don’t.) Smartphone users are also predominantly male and predominantly earn more than $100k per year.

So why is it that MMO developers are so keen to roll out more and more smartphone apps? Does this user base have a huge overlap with MMO players? Or is it just that this user base has a huge overlap with MMO devs …?

Is it not enough to ask that people have a decent PC (more so for recent games), internet connection, and the ability to play for hours at a time?  Since everyone who plays a PC game has access a PC (by definition), logic would say that there’s a wider reach to be had from rolling out mobile applications as web apps that could also run on mobiles rather than iPhone/ Android specific programs.

Unless you can also charge extra for the iPhone/ Android/ etc special purpose programs. And that’s the only reason to do it that makes sense. Otherwise, all you are doing is giving away an in-game advantage to the smartphone owning demographic.

I know that if I don’t own a compatible smartphone, the fact that an MMO offers mobile apps to others is a negative factor for me. If I’m paying a subscription, I want to see a level playing field.


9 thoughts on “Smartphone Usage and MMO Mobile Apps

  1. The three apps that I know of — WoW’s mobile auction house, the now defunt Capsuleer for EVE, and Fallen Earth’s app — do not unlevel the playing field in any way that I can see. They’re value added services for those who want to pay for them. For example, last night I logged out hell and gone from an auction house, but had done some crafting that I wanted to sell. After logging out, I used the remote auction house app to put the goods up for sale.

    I think that the smartphone demographic is ALSO leaning more towards the techie side…possibly the same demo that plays these games.

    Although I’ve not yet gotten into smartphone development, these apps are basically data front ends at the moment, and probably don’t take a lot of development cost or time compared to the other development work that these companies arer doing. We haven’t yet gotten to the point where people can actually PLAY the games, but at that point, I don’t imagine it would be any different then playing on a DS or PSP.

    • Thats a ridiculous assumption, the fact that these apps aren’t an advantage. It would be the same as a stock broker who carries a cell phone would have an advantage as someone who doesn’t. It’s constant accessability. In referrence to WoW, accumulating gold takes time. Granted, it takes more time for some than others. Having more access than most to the auction house is a direct advantage, otherwise there wouldn’t be any interest and Blizzard never would have offered it.

  2. The data the author cites in that article is over a year old. Since then we’ve seen Android phones getting popular, new iPhone, and the Blackberry. I would guess we have around 20% penetration today. I am making these numbers up, but if half of all Americans have mobile phones, and 20% of them have smartphones, that’s a cool 30 million people. And if the apps are free, it’s an easy way to engage your players outside of the MMORPG (reminding them to come back to play) and to reach out to potential new customers (e.g. the top app is the WoW armory app).

  3. I dunno where those statistics are coming from, you can see things like this:

    I’m also not sure if that article counts the iPhone as a smartphone? Because everyone I know, whether male or female, white or minority, when they get a new phone, they’re all getting a droid or iphone or something. And I can guarantee you non of them make over 100k.

    I think smartphone adoption rates among people who play MMOs (and are therefore more likely to be tech savvy) are going to be even higher than the general population, so mobile apps are a good use of devs time.

    • If you read that article, they’re saying that they predict smartphones to reach 50% penetration of the current featurephone market, not 50% of all americans.

      I personally think that’s very overoptimistic in the current economic climate (unless iPhones are much cheaper over there than they are over here) , they mention falling prices but I’m not all that surely that subscriptions are falling in price.

  4. i’m not a huge fan of the mobile mmo apps; i’d rather they concentrate on making the game itself great and polish it, than spend their time making apps; it makes sense for them to generate more avenues to play (become addicted) to their game, but a polished game will have better retention than a cool app imho

  5. My point is mostly that mobile apps are fine but they should be trying harder to make apps that can work across platform.

    Just because you may have friends with iPhones, that doesn’t actually make it typical.

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