According to a study carried out by Gartner Inc., “worldwide mobile phone sales to end users totalled 314.7 million units in the first quarter of 2010, a 17 per cent increase from the same period in 2009. Smarpthone sales to end users reached 54.3 million units, an increase of 48.7 per cent from the first quarter of 2009”. This increase in the uptake of smartphones means that a significant and increasing number of subscribers to mobile telephony services have opted for the full functionality which the smartphone offers. The mobility offered by the smartphone means that a player who is commuting, waiting in a queue, or waiting to be called into an appointment, can now make use of this time to play his favourite games. This potential increase in online time, taken in conjunction with the figures showing the uptake of smartphones, clearly show largely increased exposure for any business with an online presence, including those in the business of offering remote games.
Maximisation of this potential requires regulatory regimes which encourage, rather than hinder, this innovative sector. Legislation should ensure clarity, uniformity, and a level of certainty to those investing in the sector. As discussed in this article, however, numerous issues and/or unanswered questions still arise in relation to the laws regulating or touching upon this field.
It is submitted that harmonisation of such laws at EU level would greatly benefit the mobile gaming sector: harmonisation of the licensing regimes applicable to remote gaming across the EU could greatly increase certainty and encourage the operator of internet games to invest in the mobile platform, knowing that the licensing regimes within the EU are truly technology neutral. This could also offer some clarity on the jurisdictional issues, at least at European level, allowing the operator to know that offering his games across Europe will be subject to the same conditions in all the Member States.
Michel Barnier, Commissioner for the Internal Market and Services has announced that by the end of December 2010 the Commission intends to issue a Green Paper for consultation in relation to level of harmonisation of the rules relating to the gaming sector across the EU. Such harmonisation aims to provide a minimum degree of protection across the EU territory, and may be a step towards a pan-European licensing process. Unfortunately, the political process invariably tends to be a very lengthy one and it is impossible to know when at to what extent such harmonisation will effectively be achieved.
Regulation of the quality of service and pricing of the mobile telephony service itself, as discussed above, is also a challenging matter. However the new regulatory regime should prove to be a step in the right direction, even though it certainly will not be an all encompassing solution. In this respect it is being submitted that even without the necessary regulation in place, providers of mobile networks and services will continue to improve their services and prices, provided that legislation does not act to curtail and stifle investment in innovative products but to incentivise it.