Most people in the game industry are always looking at the next great technology that will drive a new wave of demand for social (and core) games but we are missing the biggest opportunity. At every tradeshow, there is debate and predictions about the next seismic shift in gaming. Some people argue it is VR (virtual reality), others feel it is phablets, some think it is 3D casino, while others are already in line for the iPhone 7+. While these platforms all could potentially drive sales, the least sexy opportunity is probably the best.
Don’t forget the bottom of the market
Inexpensive smartphones sales are growing incredibly fast, even in tier 1 markets such as the United States. According to a Bloomberg Business article, “The Cheap Phones Quietly Winning the U.S.,” ZTE has increased its market share in the US to 8 percent from 4.2 percent just a year ago. That makes ZTE the fourth biggest smartphone seller in the US, behind only Apple, Samsung and LG.
For those not familiar with ZTE, it is a Chinese company that sells “good enough” smartphones at low prices. ZTE sells smaller prepaid smartphones for $30, basic phones with QWERTY keyboards also for about $30, and the Chinese company’s products are among the cheap phones of choice at three of the four largest U.S. carriers. Besides phone stores, its products are on sale at Walmart, Target, and Best Buy.
The phones largely incorporate features that were state of the art from Apple or Samsung a couple of years earlier. Currently, the ZTE Maven (the flagship ZTE product sold by AT&T) has a screen, speakers, and a processor with capabilities somewhere between the iPhone 5 and 6.
The opportunity for mobile games
With many games currently pushing the envelope on technology, the millions of people buying ZTE and comparable phones have fewer good options when it comes to gaming. Instead of optimizing only for the latest, greatest hardware, ensure your game runs well on these new mass-market phones.
Moreover, this market continues to grow as more mid- and lower-income people upgrade to smartphones. Do not think the owners will not spend on games, Walmart (one of the top resellers of ZTE phones) is also the largest video game retailer in the United States (and probably the world). While technologies like VR and 3D sound cool, the real money to be made is in the middle and lower half of the market.
- ZTE has quietly become the fourth largest smartphone seller in the US, with over 8 percent market share, almost double its share a year earlier.
- ZTE phones are normally about a year or two behind the latest and greatest from Apple and Samsung.
- By optimizing for the ZTE market as well as the high end, you are building for a growing market increase your addressable tier one market.