Mobile gaming across the continent has become a major industry in modern times.
Scroll through the apps on the average person’s phone and you will likely come across the same collections of social media apps, work apps and long-neglected things like Duolingo that once seemed like a good idea.
You will also seldom come across a phone that also has a handful of mobile games downloaded from a variety of developers, showing just how far mobile gaming in Europe has risen since the days of Snake on a Nokia 3310.
Mobile bookmakers are using this growth to their advantage, using games within their apps to create opportunities, yet there are still some challenges involved.
How did the rise come about?
The first boom in the mobile gaming industry came through the introduction of smartphones.
For the first time, independent creators could develop their own games, while traditional gaming companies had a new outlet other than PCs and consoles.
As technology improved, so did the quality – and quantity – of the games, with more enticed gamers soon following.
The second wave was a product of the Covid-19 pandemic. As more people had time to kill, the number of game downloads soared. Since then, the growth has continued steadily.
What are the opportunities?
Studies in 2023 have projected that there are 201 million mobile game users in Europe at the moment, and that number is expected to continue its upward trajectory to 218 million by 2025.
Clearly, that is a huge market and one that is yet to reach its peak. Thus, it is a market that many other industries, such as social media and betting companies, want to get involved in, using games to lure in more potential users and customers.
The next opportunity is the key one for any well run business; money.
The mobile gaming industry worldwide is expected to generate $103.5 billion in 2023, with the top phone gaming companies in Western Europe pocketing themselves upwards of $7 million per year.
It is no wonder, therefore, that other sectors, particularly those in the entertainment sphere, are looking to grab a slice of that pie.
As betting companies developed their mobile websites and apps, many began offering more than a traditional sportsbook, venturing into other areas of gambling such as casinos and slots, with some bookies, such as 888sport, becoming as much of a player in the casino world as they are in the betting world.
Nowadays, bookmakers are seen as out of touch or a bit boring if they do not offer gamble-free games on their apps.
Sky Bet, for example, has a whole dedicated gaming section on their mobile site, with everything from fishing and football games to Monopoly, as well as the popular Super 6 and ITV 7.
Sky Bet is certainly not unique, with Paddy Power, Betway and William Hill among those well-known for their daily, free-to-play games.
A betting company offering chances to win big prizes for free would have been an unheard of concept a generation ago, but the opportunity to drive traffic to their apps, earn advertising revenue and get more downloads is crucial in 2023, something which games can provide.
The gamification of betting apps has also presented a chance for betting companies to change how they are perceived.
As campaigns around gambling safety have become more mainstream, betting companies have been willing to do away with the image of the big bad bookie who will do anything to take your money.
The option to win cash prizes from free games is a way for bookmakers to be seen in a more positive light, even if their desire to take our money has not wavered!
What are the challenges?
Everybody is doing it – a phrase which both helps and hinders the companies willing to get involved in mobile gaming.
Bookmakers, and other companies, cannot afford to be seen as out of touch by not offering a wide range of games and other branches to their apps, or they will lose potential downloads to their competitors.
On the flipside, thanks to the saturated nature of industries such as the European betting market, even if they do offer said wide range of games, it will still be difficult to stand out from their competitors in the App Store and other download spaces.
Any good bookmaker will have made sure the prizes they dish out on their free games will not damage the company profits, though giving out prizes without income is not the ideal business model for a bookie.
It is all very well getting new punters hooked on free games, but if they are not then encouraged to click on to the sportsbook or casino, then the money spent on game development and prizes is not worth it.
Being able to get customers to move from the games to the gambling without making them feel forced is a difficult balance even for the top bookies.
Furthermore, while the mobile gaming industry is continuing to grow, there may become a point soon where that is no longer the case. Companies cannot rely on a pandemic every few years to give themselves a boost.
It is impossible to know when the good times will end and all gaming companies can do is try to stay ahead of the curve; constantly bringing out new games which they think will be hits with the public. Never an exact science, particularly for betting companies, knowing what will be the next big thing is a gamble in itself.