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Analysis: Mobile games aren't worth $5.4 billion

Jeremy Laws at Cabana Mobile has an interesting little analysis up about mobile gaming that claims it may not be as big as it's cracked up to be. Laws says there's no way the mobile gaming market can hold up $5.4 billion, as was reported earlier this year by Juniper Research. Laws looks at the top 10 companies releasing mobile games (at retail -- that will become important in a minute), and claims that even if those companies make up 70% of total mobile games, the total amount of mobile game sales only comes up near $1.7 billion, far short of the Juniper number.

So where's the discrepancy? It's almost certain to lie in the App Store, where Juniper says growth more than made up for the dropoff of sales in other areas, like Java-based games. Laws does list companies like EA Mobile and Gameloft, whose games are selling on the App Store, but almost all of Laws' companies are old-school mobile developers, who created games for mobile phones before the App Store was ever open for business. Plus, his "retail" mention might mean the App Store isn't included in his calculations at all -- can you call the App Store "retail"? In fact, if any mobile games marketplace is going to make up over $3 billion in the mobile games market, it's got to be the App Store, right?

So this means a couple of different things: one, the App Store very well could be remaking the face of mobile gaming, to the point where old-school numbers are just plain insufficient to compare to modern App Store sales. Second, if there is a bubble, it'll likely be in the App Store: another recent report says that if you spend more than $40k on a 99 cent game, you're losing money. Laws may be underestimating the long tail of the App Store -- certainly no single developer has pulled in billions, but there are a lot of developers out there. Still, at the same time, $5.4 billion does seem high. And if games companies are convinced there's gold in the App Store hills, that's where the bubble will eventually burst.

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