Adoption of smartphones and the development of app stores has driven rapid growth in mobile gaming in recent years. Management consultant Deloitte Global forecasts $35 billion in software revenue for mobile gaming in 2016, ahead of $32 billion for PC gaming and $28 billion for console games. Mobile gaming revenues are also growing at three to four times the pace of the other platforms.
Usage is up as well: The majority of mobile phone users in the US play mobile games, and mobile gaming is even more prevalent in the Asia-Pacific region. Led by China and Japan, this region accounts for the majority of mobile gaming revenue.
Given the growing importance of mobile gaming, it would seem logical that operators should assess and track what the quality of a user's gaming experience (QoE) is. This is particularly important since subscribers do tend to hold the operator responsible for poor experiences. Various efforts aimed at assessing mobile gaming QoE have been conducted in the past, primarily led by research grants and academic organizations. More recently, telecom equipment manufacturer Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. announced a new approach entitled the Game Mean Opinion Score (gMOS). According to the company the gMOS provides "experience criteria for evaluating the subjective experience of mobile gaming." This is similar to the company's video QoE product, vMOS, developed in conjunction with Beijing University and based on previous MOS or Mean Opinion Score recommendations developed by the International Telecommunication Union's Standardization Sector (ITU-T).
The initial MOS test was developed by the ITU to understand a human user's view of the quality of voice services. It was a subjective measurement where listeners would sit in a "quiet room" and score call quality on a five-point scale, as they perceived it. It was then extended to multimedia applications, including video. Huawei subsequently developed a "mobile scenario-based computational formula," basically combining various objective metrics with subjective ones, to provide a MOS score. The ITU has included it in ongoing standardization work in the areas of video downloading and streaming. With gMOS, Huawei is now using the same approach to target mobile gaming, looking at game interactivity, game loading and game streaming performance in particular.
I would be the first to agree that more data and insight is usually beneficial for the ecosystem as a whole, but this approach does raise some questions.
Firstly does it work? The effectiveness of any metric, particularly one that is based on subjective measures, is dependent on whether it can correctly measure what it is supposed to. QoE may be a simple concept, but to adequately measure a customer experience is a thorny research problem. It is only with time and actual usage that we will be able to tell if gMOS's computational formula can truly assess a mobile gamer's QoE, at least to the extent of correctly predicting satisfaction and churn.
Secondly, though mobile gaming is growing rapidly, much of this growth is coming from small, free-to-play apps created by tens of thousands of small companies. In fact, most mobile games are offered using a "freemium" model, and according to mobile marketing company swrve, only 1.9% of freemium gaming users spend any money at all. And among those that do, nearly half the revenue comes from an even smaller base of just 0.19% of users.
So for the most, mobile gamers are using free apps. Why is this relevant to a QoE metric? Churn sensitivity based on QoE is generally reduced when the service is free, i.e., users are more likely to put up with low QoE for services they don't have to pay for.
This is relative though; if an experience is sufficiently poor, consumers will be frustrated enough to react. It's also fair to say that consumers are paying for mobile service, and there is an implicit QoE expectation as a result. Plus, swrve's study has found that paid conversions for freemium gaming app users is rising, so there will be more paid users in the future, who will likely be more sensitive to QoE issues.
As mobile gaming grows, it is likely such initiatives will be of use to the mobile community -- provided they prove to be consistent and adequately measure the consumer's gaming experience. In practice, this usually requires a process of assessment and refinement over time.
This blog is sponsored by Huawei.
— Aditya Kishore, Practice Leader, Video Transformation, Heavy Reading