UK operator EE has seen data usage for mobile gaming increase by 31 percent on its network over the last six months (from Q4 2020 to Q1 2021). The company is introducing a new unlimited data plan for customers who play games on the Xbox platform.
New research released by EE shows that the number of mobile gamers in the UK has increased by 18 percent during lockdown, with more women (54 percent) than men (44 percent) using a mobile game for the first time. The research was commissioned to promote the launch of EE’s new Xbox Game Pass Ultimate add-on with unlimited data for gaming.
One quarter of mobile gamers said that socializing with friends and family was the main reason for playing. Three quarters (76 percent) said they would stream the latest, high-quality games on their phones more often if they did not have to worry about their data allowance.
The Xbox Game Pass Ultimate add-on will allow EE prepaid Android smartphone customers to access over 100 Xbox games on their smartphone for £10.00 (US $13.87) per month. Customers with a Smart or Essential plan can subscribe to the offer on a 30-day rolling contract. The service can also be used on the web, an Xbox console or Windows PC.
Interactive video gaming is a distinctive and relatively new feature of the mobile landscape. Games are becoming ever more sophisticated and claiming a constantly increasing share of the consumer base. They are also requiring a constantly increasing amount of high-speed mobile data to power their advanced features. Not surprisingly, operators across many markets but especially in the developed economies are aggressively seeking to exploit this phenomenon.
EE’s survey—commissioned in conjunction with the launch of a plan add-on targeted to gaming—yielded a rather dramatic result. A 31 percent increase in data usage in just six months is something to take notice of. Such a figure, driven by new habits acquired during lockdown but likely to become more permanent, might lead an operator to conclude that here is a reliable revenue stream for the foreseeable future. However, the vast majority of the respondents stated that cost is a concern and that they would stream even more gaming data if they did not have to worry about their data allowance.
Therefore, some form of zero-rating is the way to make sure that gamers play their games to the maximum extent, and EE’s unlimited-data-for-gaming add-on fits the bill. In terms of revenue generation, the operator could use the old tactic of eventually getting rid of the zero-rating and upselling customers so that they pay for the all the data. However, that is likely not to work, given what 76 percent of customers said about cost. If the operator treats the unlimited offer as long-term, it can earn its gaming revenue through the companies that create the games and benefit greatly from the market positioning and cost savings that a major operator provides. Paying for this kind of access is very likely a win-win proposition.