When it comes to video games on mobile phones, simple is still best, according to a recent study from NPD Group. The study, conducted on behalf of the Mobile Marketing Association, found that fully 61% of all games downloaded to mobile phones by US mobile phone users in August 2006 were puzzle games.

That’s puzzle, as in Bejeweled or Tetris — graphically simple games which can be played solo in bursts of a few minutes. The study also found that action and sports games combined accounted for 30% of downloads, and that all other genres were also-rans, combining for 8% of mobile game downloads.

Despite ongoing predictions of graphically complex and networked multiplayer handset-based global gaming warfare, simple games have dominated the mobile market for years. This is not for lack of interest or major players in the sector. International Data Corporation predicted last year that mobile gaming revenues in the US would reach $1.5 billion in 2008. More recently, video games market leader EA Games showed its confidence in the sector by acquiring mobile publisher JAMDAT in February 2006.

In fact, mobile entertainment as a whole is growing. eMarketer predicts that mobile entertainment, of which mobile gaming is a key component, will be the fastest-growing type of mobile data through 2010, when mobile data revenues will reach $37.5 billion in the US.

In contrast to the market for video game consoles, which seems trapped in a technological arms race seeking ever more complex real-time renderings, selling game content to the smallest screens means embracing simplicity. Other genres may have niche audiences of worth to mobile marketers, but for now the biggest play in mobile gaming remains puzzling.

More here.