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Part 1 - I-play CEO David Gosen

David Gosen joined I-play as COO in August 2004, becoming chief executive less than two years later. He was previously MD of sales and marketing at Nintendo Europe, where he helped to drive the company's growth in the region and oversaw the launch of the the GameCube and GBA.

In other words, Gosen has plenty of experience when it comes to both console gaming and the emerging mobile market - and he also has strong opinions on where the future of gaming lies.

That was clear at the recent Montreal International Games Summit, where Gosen took to the stage to deliver a speech titled 'Mobile gaming - the true mass market'.

Afterwards, MobileIndustry.biz sat down with Gosen to discuss the topics he presented in further detail. Here's part one of our interview; visit MI.biz next week for part two.

MobileIndustry.biz What were they key points you wanted to convey in your Montreal Games Summit speech?
David Gosen

If we look at the mobile industry as a space, I think it's very important that we continue to see it as a mass market, casual gaming environment. Today there are 2 billion global subscribers on mobile. The market's going to be worth US$ 6 billion by 2010, and it will grow about 30 per cent to 35 per cent every year up until that point - so there is tremendous growth.

2006 marks the first time that there will be more touch points for mobile gaming than there will for console. In terms of revenues, of course, console's far greater, but more games will be played on mobile than they will on console. So if you are a brand owner, if you're looking to get your content out to the mass market; mobile offers tremendous scope to do that.

If you look at the console industry, over 300 million consoles have been sold in the last 25 years, while 800 million phones get sold every year. Which one's mass market? It has to be the mobile device.

Mobile is not console, for a number of reasons. One is mass market. This is a mass market business, and although console's been successful, it's been successful for a pretty tightly defined niche of players. I think that's perhaps starting to change, and will take time, but mobile is true mass market.

MobileIndustry.biz So is that change occurring because the audience is changing?
David Gosen

If you look at who plays mobile games, 50 per cent of players are women. That doesn't happen in console land, so again, we've got a whole range of new players that we can bring into gaming through mobile.

I think mobile can be a recruitment device; someone that gets a great gaming experience on mobile can easily move up to console, or move to handheld and then move to console. Someone who watches a mobile video on their device might go out and by a DVD because they've liked the clip that they've seen. We have an opportunity to really grow the pool of gamers in the market.

The other thing is that 5 per cent of people who own a phone have ever downloaded a game, while 50 per cent have actually played a game. That means there's huge latent demand - people will play a game, but you just have to help them sometimes with how they actually download. That's hugely, hugely encouraging.

MobileIndustry.biz How does that fit in with I-play's philosophy?
David Gosen

What I-Play's doing as a business is saying, casual gaming, simple and intuitive, one-thumb gaming - those are absolutely pivotal. If you can't play a game with one thumb, it's too complicated, and that underpins all of our game development.

If console gaming is a three-course meal, mobile gaming is a snack. That's how you have to approach this; it's about bringing nuggets of entertainment onto the mobile devices, because that's how consumers want to consume it.

75 per cent of all gaming sessions on mobile last less than ten minutes, and 95 per cent of people play a mobile game whilst they're doing something else - sat on the bus, sat on the train, sat in at home watching TV... You have to design your game to respond to those behaviours and needs of the consumer.

MobileIndustry.biz How well do you think I-Play has done in terms of meeting those needs?
David Gosen

I-play has been, so far, terrifically successful in growing the business. We've seen, in the first half of this year, our sales grow by 88 per cent. We have really built some significant franchises.

The Fast and the Furious is a key franchise for us; it's done 6 million downloads in just under three years. Jewel Quest, which is a great online game we've brought to mobiles - over 2 million downloads in just over a year and a half. Freestyle Motorcross - not a great spectator sport, but a million downloads in over a year.

So if you get the philosophy right, the game design right, if you target the right end user, you can see significant sales on your platform.

MobileIndustry.biz It's not just mobile gaming companies like yourselves who are talking about the importance of the casual market, and of attracting new gamers, such as older female players. That definitely seems to be a key concept for Nintendo in marketing the Wii - are you concerned that they could actually seize this new audience and bring them to consoles, rather than mobile?
David Gosen

No. I spent five years working for Nintendo, running the European business. Nintendo is very different from Sony or Microsoft, in as much that it is trying to grow the market.

We started to do that at Nintendo when we bought out Game Boy Advance. GBA SP and DS have continued that, and Wii will do so even more. Even on some of the new DS titles, Brain Age, Nintendogs, they're still not at 50 per cent of the users being female, but I think it's good news. The more people we get into playing games in general, whether it's on mobile or on DS is a bigger pool for all of us.

The other point is that the mobile device is a device that goes with you all the time, 24-7. When you go out at night, it's 'cigarettes, car keys, wallet, mobile phone'. You don't go 'cigarettes, car keys, wallet, mobile phone, MP3 player, DS, organiser...', otherwise you'd need a utility belt.

Mobile has got the point where it's the ultimate convergent device of this century, and will continue to allow consumers of today to enjoy the entertainment that they want.

Users are promiscuous in terms of loyalty to brands, and they demand instant gratification. There is no downtime; it's not allowed anymore, it's almost a crime. If you're out and you're travelling, or you're sat somewhere, you've always got your mobile device with you, you may mot necessarily have another gaming device or an MP3 player, or something else. That's why I think the mobile is really the answer to people's entertainment needs on the go.

David Gosen is CEO for I-play. Interview by Ellie Gibson. To read the second part of this feature, visit MobileIndustry.biz next week.

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