Today it''s a hot topic of mobile internet (at least in Stockholm, Sweden) such as WAP, and especially when things like GPRS (General Packer Radio Services) is knocking on the door to provide greater bandwith than the (usually) currently 9.6KB available in GSM-networks (common in Europe).
Of course entertainment, like games, is important. For example, looking at Japan, which is far ahead in the future compared to the rest of the world with their iMode network (NTT DoCoMo), mobile entertainment services is almost 50% of their revenue. That''s alot!
- SEGA has announced the their "Dreamcast-powered" cellphone together with Motorola.
- Nokia and others has announced that they will provide Java-support in their phones. The user will actually be able to download applications and execute them in the phone (like a PDA).
- Sony will make a mobile unit of their Playstation, that will be able to hook up with a cellphone to download software and/or play network games.
- PDA''s are getting more powerful and soon they will be all connected. Palm has announced mobile support for all future (and present!) Palm PDA''s.
I''m curious to hear what all of you are thinking about this, mobile phones (or units) as a platform for games?
The current platform is not of any use for real game development but the next generation will start to be much better suited. The key issue will not be hardware but will people want to play games while moving around. I think the Game Boy shows that they will but we must design games that use the new features of the technology.
That there will be users playing games while moving around, isn''t going to be a problem I believe. Not to mention the GameBoy as you wrote, but do also take a look how popular the Snake game and those other small games in the Nokia cellphones. You''ll see people playing it all the time while travelling the subway for example.
And also, just take a look at Japan...
Anyway, at Cebit this year Nintendo showed a GameBoy combined with a cellphone. It was just a fake prototype, but at least it shows where it''s heading.
There's no doubt in my mind that virtually everyone in the Western world will have a mobile phone in near future. Here in Finland we recently crossed the 70 % penetration mark and the number of cellulars is still growing. Sweden is not far behind. Analysts say the scandinavian market shows the future for the rest of the (industrial) world, and indeed, the mobile market is growing nicely in countries like UK, France, Spain and Italy.
I'm not sure what type of phones you refer to, Dan, when you say "not of any use for real game development". For WAP, it's certainly possible to make games that are fun and worth some cash in the consumer's eyes. Among others, Nokia predicts that virtually all cheap low-end mobile phones will be WAP enabled in the near future and indeed most of the mobile phone manufacturers have announced they will produce WAP models.
Our company finished its first WAP games in Jan-Feb this year, so I know WAP is very much like making games for HTML - static content produced by a server side software. In addition, the screens and formatting possibilities are very limited. But still, we have been working on a score of designs this spring and my feel is that WAP actually forces the designer to think more about the gameplay instead of trying to survive the onslaught of newest 3D accelerator cards.
In Finland, SMS has shown us that people are willing to pay for ridiculously simple and inconvenient services, such as SMS chatting. And not just willing, they are _crazy_ about it! The key is mobility - in the chat case, teenagers are not able to use PC + internet (where chatting would be much more convenient) when they are hanging out in town in the evenings. They use their phones. The phones don't have a nerdy image either, as PCs might have.
I think WAP games will be the logical next step after SMS in mobile entertainment. As mobile phones proceed to the 3rd generation, we will be able to develop much more sophisticated games. That's what we're aiming for at Wizbang.
Okay, now the conclusion. Since most of the population will carry a mobile phone and it is possible to make games that people will pay for... virtually everyone will carry a gaming platform in their pockets! PCs, consoles or gameboys have never ever reached penetrations of this type in the general population. And they never will, since not all people are willing to spend money on gaming-only hardware. Wireless games are charged per-play or for connection time, thus the threshold costs of buying expensive hardware and expensive CD-ROM or cartridge games are eliminated. If you get bored halfway through a game, you don't have to pay for the rest of the game.
The only threat I can see here is the pricing policy of mobile phone operators - if they keep the prices too high, they will strangle the wireless services. However, I don't think the current "early adopter" pricing will last for very long.
Lasse Seppanen Producer, Wireless Wizbang Productions, Helsinki
An very interesting point is that by 2003 the Yankee Group estimates the number of mobile Internet phones users will be 1 billion. Also, by 2003 the Gartner Group estimates that 25% of total consumer spending will come via mobile Internet.