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Playing to the mobile crowd

By Gao Yuan  (China Daily)

09:06, February 25, 2013

A billboard advertising China Mobile's online games in a smartphone store in Nantong city, in East China's Jiangsu province. Xu Congjun / For China Daily

Turnover of the market may reach more than 14 billion yuan by the year 2015

China's mobile gaming market surged nearly 25 percent in the fourth quarter of last year, registering the fastest growth since 2011, industry research revealed.

The market size of the nation's mobile gaming sector hit 1.68 billion yuan ($270 million) in the last quarter of 2012, Beijing-based research company Analysys International said. The market scale was around 1.34 billion yuan by the end of the third quarter.

China overtook the United States as the world's biggest market for active Android and iOS smartphones and tablets, IT research firm Flurry Analytics said on Feb 18.

The country will have 246 million smart interactive devices, including cellphones and tablet PCs, by the end of February, it estimated.

Online games running on mobile devices also saw a strong increase as the number of China's mobile Internet users grew.

The number of Chinese people accessing the Internet via mobile devices increased to a record high of 420 million by the end of last year, data from the China Internet Network Information Center showed.

Smartphones have become the most widely used gadget to access the Internet, said the report, adding the growing number of mobile applications also helped the development.

"Online mobile games have successfully established a working payment system and an increasing number of smartphone owners in China are willing to pay for nicely designed games," said Xue Yongfeng, a researcher with Analysys International.

The turnover of the paid mobile game market could surge to more than 14 billion yuan by 2015, a report from iResearch Consulting Group estimated. The amount was about 5.2 billion yuan in 2012, it said.

Tencent Holdings Ltd is the nation's biggest mobile games operator. It took more than 20 percent market share in the third quarter of last year.

"Launching with Tencent QQ, the most used online chat software in China, the company's online gaming platform enjoys the world's largest user base, one that competitors will find difficult to challenge," said Xue.

However, the industry may need further integration because the nation's top 10 developers took less than 60 percent of market share in the third quarter.

Industry insiders argued the industry is not a good place for small developers because large numbers of them have linked up with the competition over the past year.

"At least a quarter of the developers were unable to release any games before they folded. Only 10 percent could make a profit in the industry," said Xiao Yongquan, CEO of online game portal, in January.

Small and medium-sized developers need their products to accumulate large numbers of players as quickly as possible to keep the app on top of the download list. Generally speaking, if a game can't catch players' attention in about two weeks, it dies.

However, the industry will continue to expand despite low profit expectations.

The mobile gaming market is set to explode this year, according to Xiao. The number of games running on the android system could triple by the end of this year, he said.

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