Mobile gaming revenues exploding

Games figured heavily in the (official) introduction of the iPhone 4G and according to industry research, it’s easy to see why. A recent Nielsen study found games are the most frequently used apps, ahead of more utilitarian categories such as social networking, news and navigation. Games are also at the top of the entertainment app heap, with more usage than anything having to do with either music or movies. Current projections see global mobile gaming revenues surpassing $5.6 billion in 2010.

Here are a few of the new iPhone’s gaming-relevant updates. A new chipset and the promise of faster processing could improve the speed and graphic quality of games. Promises of better networking speeds could eventually allow better multiplayer or even eventually streaming experiences. A better camera on the back and a new camera on the front might allow iPhone developer to take creative cues from existing game platforms and eventually yield some interesting changes in the way players can control the experience. The new iPhone also has a built-in gyroscope, promising more refined game control. The near-term implications are obvious: better mobile games and competition against the mobile games platforms from Nintendo or Sony. The potential long-term ramifications are far more compelling.

Consider the standard living room-centric, game platform design, which traditionally combines a games-dedicated set-top box with some  form of  controller. Microsoft currently promises to upend the paradigm by keeping the box, but disposing of the traditional controller via its soon-to-be released Kinect (nee Project Natal).

Platforms such as the Wii or Playstation are computers dedicated to games; the iPhone is a computer dedicated to mobility, but there’s no reason it can’t dabble in the living room as well. Serving as the perpetual yin to Microsoft’s yang, what if Apple did the opposite of Natal and kept the controller, but got rid of the box? The introduction of the gyroscope in the new iPhone makes the iPhone a fairly powerful games controller in its own right. Much like the way Xbox 360 now straddles the worlds of gaming and video, future iPhones could straddle the worlds of mobility and living room-centric game play.

Suddenly, Apple could pursue a much larger piece of the gaming pie, extending its reach from the large mobile games market to the much larger overall games market, projected to be worth up to $91 billion by 2015.

While Apple isn’t going to conquer the living room with the iPhone 4, don’t be surprised if future iPhones feature heavily in Apple’s pursuit of gaming dollars from consumers at home and on the go.