Modern media (film, television, music) is marked by increasing levels of innovation – and more often than not, that innovation is propelled by entertainment. It was the need for better entertainment that led to ‘The Jazz Singer’ in 1927, the first feature-length motion picture with synchronised dialogue sequences that marked the end of the silent movie era. The need for music on the move led to the Walkman, launched in Japan in 1979. More recently, you would be hard-pressed to find someone who hasn’t upgraded his or her personal computer in order to play the latest game – our day-to-day word-processing, email and Internet tasks do not tax computers as much as the need to simulate environments in 3D or create expansive soundscapes.
In the mobile, too, entertainment is a crucial element in driving the adoption of new technology. We have come a long way from playing Snake on Nokia phones, and the mobile game-scape is highly sophisticated with interactivity, video streaming, and multiplayer gameplay. More powerful processors in smartphones and the lower cost of bandwidth and the spread of 3G networks means users can expect premium gaming experiences on the go.
A recent study by the Mobile Entertainment Forum shows that the mobile entertainment industry has grown into a business worth $36 billion globally, and this figure is expected to hit the $47-billion mark by 2013.
The growth in the mobile market has propelled technology innovation, which has led back to growth in the market, while changes in hardware mean that updated Java VMs, development platforms like BREW, and 3G speeds are now taken for granted.
Mobile applications are the next big thing. App stores allow users to purchase apps over the air creating a mobile commerce channel that, in the case of Apple, extends to the OTA purchase of other content, including music, ebooks, television shows and movies. This is a far cry from the early days of mobile content consumption, where users could only buy ringtones and wallpapers.
Another wave that the apps have brought in has been the simplicity in developing and promoting an app among the millions of mobile users. Previously, app developers had to go through operators to be able to put up their app for download. With the proliferation of the likes of appStore and its simple and low barrier of entry, app developers are now flooding the app world with new and innovative applications. A simple app developer sitting in the basement of his house or an eight-year old kid with an interesting app idea are able to take over the app market with their entertaining and innovative apps. A look at the app stores top ten lists shows how much they are dominated by games, a clear indication of the role that mobile entertainment is playing in this particular innovation.
Considering how much we use our mobile devices for entertainment (gaming, media consumption, web access, and updating social media), it is safe to say that mobile entertainment is integral to the mobile medium. If anything, mobile entertainment, from the simplest content provision to the most sophisticated gaming, fuels the mobile ecosystem, as mobile devices themselves transcend their origins as mobile telephones.
Mobile entertainment is also a major driver for other content. At the moment, mobile entertainment is cheap and easily accessible. This drives up data usage on mobile to the benefit of operators. This trend has also heightened perceived benefits of mobile advertising. In a recent survey run by InMobi, customers were asked what they perceive as the benefit of mobile advertising and 26 per cent of the respondents felt mobile entertained them. This number is even higher in APAC with 31 per cent of the respondents feeling that entertainment is the benefit of mobile advertising for them.
The willingness of the mobile audience to be entertained has allowed brands and advertisers to tie their marketing efforts to mobile entertainment. The recent launch of Reebok’s Hexride, type of shoe technology, included a downloadable interactive game. The game positioned the shoe as a personal statement and proved to be very popular with many users downloading the game and sharing it with their friends over SMS using an included feature. The inclusion of this competitive, entertaining game delivered results well over the usual industry benchmarks for mobile campaigns.
Given the pervasive nature of mobile technology, it seems natural enough that it would be entertainment that is its greatest use. The extent to which entertainment is the driver behind innovation, services, monetisation and marketing may seem surprising at first. Thinking back to how much entertainment has fuelled the development of other media, and considering that mobile devices have the additional attraction of interactivity and social connection, it is not so surprising after all.
(Naveen Tiwari is the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of InMobi.)