updated 11:10 am EDT, Wed July 27, 2011
Distimo study shows freemium dominating games
A new Distimo study on Wednesday showed Apple riding a wave in gaming based on a wider shift to "freemium" games. The pay-for-extras model from games like Smurf's Village now makes up 52 percent of the revenue coming from games. The shift makes it about ten times larger than it was a year ago and saw about 35 percent of games supporting some kind of in-game pay system.
The switch helped an overall drop in the price of mobile games. Where the average price among the top 300 iPhone games was just over $2 last June, it had declined to $1.44 a year later.
Freemium has been a popular model since it both lowers the barrier for entry and makes piracy difficult. It may be even more important with Android, where piracy is much more common and Google has fostered a culture more resistant to paying for any apps. Rovio's Angry Birds uses the model along with ads in Android where it can trust users to pay for the game outright on iOS.
Apple was still having the most success in leaning on gaming. Games were the most popular apps on all mobile stores outside of BlackBerry App World, where RIM's slow hardware has discouraged games, but they were more than half of the top 300 free and paid apps on the iPhone and over 40 percent on the iPad. Only the PlayBook and Windows Phone came close in share.
Apple was the only phone maker with an app store in 2011 to see games growing faster than in other categories. The field was important to Windows Phone, too, but even though games grew 149 percent between January and June, other apps grew by 266 percent.
Gaming was once downplayed as the least important feature on smartphones but, after the iPhone's App Store launch in 2008, has increasingly been the determining factor in whether or not a smartphone platform succeeds. Elder phone OS makers like Microsoft and RIM downplayed the category for years and have since been left behind as more of the smartphone market shifts towards home users.