The Changing Face of the UK Online Gamer

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Mobile gaming and online gambling are booming in the UK; the data are pretty unequivocal on this. However – as far as the specific numbers are concerned, the picture becomes a little more blurred to say the least. It was Benjamin Disraeli who once famously quipped, “there are lies, damned lies – and statistics” and the point is well-made when it comes to online gaming stats. Depending on what point someone is looking to prove- there are various different data sources to cite.

Nevertheless, there are a few stand-out surveys whose data at least set out to be objective in the first place.

The most recent of these was the one conducted during the summer of last year by the market research outfit comScore. This survey showed an estimated 20 million active mobile gamers playing each month in the UK – 6.2 million of whom play on their smartphones more or less every day.

These figures were down on the previous similar report by market research company Newzoo who estimated there to be close to 34 million gamers in the UK across all platforms. Newzoo estimated the number playing on smartphones to be around the 17 million mark. And the same company had earlier estimated that almost 40% of the UK’s mobile gamers were paying for their mobile games.

Meanwhile, industry analysts IHS Screen Digest had estimated early in 2013 that people in the UK  would be likely to spend close to £300 million on mobile gaming over the course of the year – compared with £743 million spent on console gaming.

So the figures disagree and the forward forecasts vary – but what is patently true is that mobile gaming is continuing to grow.

Much of the explosive growth has come from the Apple and Google app stores, driven by the huge popularity of so-called “freemium” games including Clash of Clans, The Simpsons, Top Eleven, Candy Crush Saga and Tapped Out. In fact, 19 of the top 20 games on Android’s Google Play store are freemium games, along with 18 of the 20 top Apple games.

But that isn’t to say no-one is paying; the figures are reinforced by the major providers in the online paid-for gaming market. Listed UK company 32Red, for example, which provides various online casino and bingo games and a sports betting book recently revealed that the number of active casino players increased by a whopping 20% during the first six months of 2014 – to 50,890. The company’s online casino and its 32redbingo.com offerings compare well with the rest of the industry in what is an increasingly competitive environment and the numbers are steadily growing. Perhaps more interestingly – they’re growing faster than the rest of the market.

But when we look at who now plays games online, where do they do so and how, the latest survey information becomes even more interesting. In particular, the “mobile” term is a bit of a misnomer in some ways as most of us actually play at home.

The afore-mentioned 2013 comScore survey showed that two-thirds of UK mobile gamers do that gaming in their living rooms. Close to half play in their bedrooms, almost a quarter in their bathrooms and/or loos. When it comes to really mobile mobile gaming, the numbers are more like a third who game whilst commuting – and 27% of us play at work.

As for the overall numbers and the devices on which we play;  the comScore macro data now show over eight million UK gamers are now downloading mobile games (and this figure was up by close to 50% over the previous 18 months) though just 1.3 million of us currently pay for downloadable games. Of the people who are paying, 55% use iPhones, 28% use Android devices with 4% each using Windows Phone and BlackBerry.

In short, there are a lot of us playing games, and an increasing number of us willing to pay for those games. Logic suggests that as mobile coverage gets better, and more of us will play on the move to kill time and entertain ourselves whilst commuting. For the providers getting the market just right – the rewards are almost limitless. But it’s a competitive world out there.

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