LONDON: Almost half of European smartphone users frequently play games on the devices, figures from comScore suggest.

A new report from the digital research firm suggests that 41.7% of the smartphone audience in the "EU5" bloc – including France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK – played a mobile game of some kind during February 2012.

This is a 55% increase in penetration from when the same survey was taken 12 months before, and includes a hard core of 11.5% who accessed the games almost every day.

By nation, the heaviest users were in the UK, which was the only market measured where the mobile gaming population formed the majority (52.4%) of the smartphone audience. In all, 16.4% of Britons were daily players.

But mobile games have gained least traction in France, where just 27.2% of respondents had played during the month, and 7.4% were daily users. Each of the other three nations had a usage rate of above 40%.

Hesham Al-Jehani, comScore Europe product manager for mobile, said that the burgeoning popularity of mobile gaming is partly due to the fact they tend to be accessed via downloadable apps – and can therefore be played in "idle time" when the user cannot get on to the mobile web.

"As mobile games evolve from simple pre-loaded games to highly challenging and visually appealing games, their entertainment value has increased substantially."

Games accessed via social media platforms were earmarked by comScore for future growth. Unlike the general gaming market, Italy scored the highest penetration rate for social gaming (15.5% of the total audience), with the UK beaten into second place on 14.2%.

The number of users accessing this type of game hit 6.1m in February, up 42% from when the last survey was taken six months before.

Data sourced from comScore; additional content by Warc staff