Mobile Gaming for Minors

10/24/2012

Thanks to the proliferation of casual mobile gaming platforms like smartphones and tablets, mobile gaming has exploded in the last few years. Enhanced technology and new games have helped attract users from all age groups. Older generations that never would have considered gaming are starting to dabble, and a growing number of parents are using their mobile devices to keep their kids entertained.

In fact, ABI Research, www.abiresearch.com, expects mobile gaming revenues to more than triple in the next few years, growing from less than $5 billion in 2011 to $16 billion in 2016.

These trends are certainly not lost on manufacturers. Nintendo, www.nintendo.com, is scheduled to launch its much anticipated Wii U gaming console next month, which has a brand new GamePad controller that will have gaming and tablet-like features. The company has hinted that the controller can be used for video game play, internet access, and TV programming. Early demos also discussed videoconference capabilities.


A new start-up, PlayMG Corp., www.playmg.com, is taking a different direction and leveraging the smartphone form factor but focusing solely on gaming. With its sights set specifically on the younger demographic, PlayMG has designed the MG, a dedicated, pocket-sized app-gaming system for the Android market. The device has the look and feel of a smartphone but actually has no smartphone capabilities—just gaming and Wi-Fi.

According to the company, the MG was designed to fill a huge void for young people who either are not old enough to have their own smartphones, or whose parents have found data-plan costs to be prohibitive. In other words, parents can take back their smartphones and give their kids their own affordable portable gaming device that feels as “cool” as their parent’s mobile devices. PlayMG estimates this demographic to represent about 52 million possible users.

The device has some new parenting features, including a "Digital Wallet" and "Remote Trust" notifications. The MG Digital Wallet allows parents to create and manage game allowances through a reloadable prepaid MasterCard, which the company says will eliminate the constant nagging for permission to buy a new game as well as any surprise charges. Remote Trust notifications send email updates to parents about their kids’ gaming activity, giving parents and young users an alternative to traditional parental controls.

One of the device’s most interesting features is its exclusive Avatar system, which makes using the MG a game in and of itself. As young people play, they gain points, customize, and unlock the origin story of their own personal gaming companions. A slew of other games are also preloaded on the device, and a whole list of other free games is available for download on Google Play.

Other tech features include a 4-inch touchscreen, limitless expandable memory, and a 1.3 megapixel front-facing camera. It also runs on 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich. The MG’s presale price is set at $149, but that price will increase to $169 for the holiday season.

With the gaming market dominated by large players like Nintendo, Sony, and Microsoft, among others, it will be interesting to see if there is room for new, smaller player in this growing market space. Young users might like the sleekness of the MG, but with the convergence of voice, video, and data, it might be hard to sell a dedicated device to a generation who is used to being connected, even when they are gaming.





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