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Mobile-only gamers account for 20% of the market - NPD

Latest report shows time spent playing on mobile has increased 57% since 2012, with basically no impact on consoles and PC playing

Mobile gaming is big and getting bigger, and that comes as a surprise to no one. The latest report from The NPD Group, however, does give us some perspective on how much people are now playing on their phones compared to just two years ago. The average time spent playing on a phone in 2014 stood at over two hours, which represented a 57 percent increase from one hour and 23 minutes on average during 2012. In particular, NPD said that tablets have "become central to the mobile gaming story" as players on tablets are more likely to pay for games and to spend more money on average than gamers on other mobile platforms.

"Continued mobile growth will stem from existing customers paying more to play, especially in the free-to-play portion of the market," said Liam Callahan, industry analyst, The NPD Group. "A positive sign of consumer behavior trending this way is the fact that more than twice the number of app gamers reported making an in-game purchase than they did when we conducted this study two years ago."

Interestingly, despite constant assertions that people are moving to mobile and that console gaming is taking a hit as a result, NPD found that mobile-only gamers account for about 20 percent of the market and it's clearly been additive to the industry. NPD said that "While time spent gaming on mobile devices is increasing, traditional gaming devices haven't been abandoned. In fact, console and computer gamers are playing just as much as they were one year ago."

While mobile devices have seen the most play time, most players of mobile games tend to play games across a variety of platforms. NPD also found a difference in terms of how age group affects the market. The average number of minutes per session peaks in the tween years, and it subsequently falls through the teenage and early adult years. NPD said, unsurprisingly, that kids ages 2 to 12 are spending the greatest proportion of their device time on gaming versus other activities. It's the adults who are spending the most money though.

"There's no denying the important role kids play in driving revenue," said Callahan, "But it's the adult gamers who are spending more than kids and teens. This group also tends to be the decision-makers for their young children's gaming experiences, making them a prime target for developers and marketers alike."

The mobile games business has clearly come into its own, but it's also changed tremendously in only a few years. It's now harder to successfully deploy a game and get noticed, as Tommy Palm remarked, and the mobile game charts hardly ever change (they merely shuffle the deck of top players like Clash of Clans or Candy Crush each week). Mobile is not the indie bastion it once was, as it's become tougher and tougher to compete with the big companies that can leverage their money and muscle to dominate.

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James Brightman


James Brightman has been covering the games industry since 2003 and has been an avid gamer since the days of Atari and Intellivision. He was previously EIC and co-founder of IndustryGamers and spent several years leading GameDaily Biz at AOL prior to that.