‘Simple games’ rule mobile charts


Tetris has ruled mobiles as far as gaming goes over the last 12 months, according to Mobile Games Analyst.
The game catapults iFone straight to the top of the top UK mobile games publisher rankings, according to the performance of its games in the charts.

Tetris was the top game for eight months. Other big-hitters were Namco’s Pac-Man and Iomo’s Pub Pool.

The Entertainment and Leisure Software Publishers Association compiled mobile game data for the first time from 2004.

It produces the official video and computer games charts across all formats weekly.

Elspa collated figures for mobiles, collected from the major mobile operators, for the first time in the 12 months between March 2004 and February 2005.

The research showed that consoles games which have been turned into mobile versions may not be what the mobile gamer wants.

I-play (formerly Digital Bridges) FIFA Football and Tiger Woods 2004, and Gameloft’s Splinter Cell: Pandora Tomorrow performed well, the research found.

But others, such as Wonderphone’s Crash Nitro Kart and Sorrent’s Driv3r, spent just one month in the chart.

“It’s no surprise that accessible, easy-to-play games have considerable appeal for UK mobile users,” said Stuart Dredge from Mobile Games Analyst, published by Informa Telecoms and Media.

“However, what’s really encouraging is the fact that the Elspa chart has been a mixture of branded and original titles, showing the diversity and creativity that exist within the mobile games market.”

Major publishers in the traditional games markets, such as Electronic Arts, have also started to push into mobile gaming more in the last year, setting up dedicated mobile games publishing divisions.

EA recently joined forces with Scottish mobile entertainment firm Digital Bridges to make more of its games available for mobiles.

The research pointed to the disappointing performance of games version of films, however.

Of the 47 games that charted during over the year, only two film-based titles – I-play’s The Fast And The Furious and Jamdat’s Lord Of The Rings: Return Of The King – made it into the chart, both for one month only.

“The poor performance of movie-related brands and some of the console ports indicates that games companies can no longer afford to rely on brands alone to achieve sustainable sales,” said Pamela Clark-Dickson, editor of Mobile Games Analyst.

“Investment in the development of original IP will likely accelerate in the short-to-medium term, particularly with the increased commitment to mobile of video-games publisher Electronic Arts, which has already stated its intention to create original mobile games.”

Downloadable mobile games are becoming big business as mobile ownership continues to rise, but also as phones get much more powerful with better graphics and processing technology.

Mobile gaming is expected to explode, with analysts predicting that 220 million will be playing games on mobile phones by 2009.

Analysts say that mobile games appeal more to the “casual gamer”, who is looking to play for short periods of time, than to dedicated gamers.

Console titles tend to require more time commitment because of the type of game play they offer.

Major investment has been pumped into mobile gaming recently, a Screen Digest report found earlier in April.

Between 2002 and 2004, mobile game company fund-raising rose from £15.7m (23 million euros) to £125.2m (184 million euros).

Many big games makers see mobile gaming as a way to attract more people into its more serious gaming titles on consoles.

Casual gamers include a large proportion of women, and the games industry is keen to tap into that potential market too.



Mobile games to ‘go interactive’


Most of the companies making games for mobile phones have got it wrong, says Trip Hawkins, founder of games behemoth Electronic Arts.

Now turning his attention to titles for handsets, his current venture is called Digital Chocolate and, he says, has a very different approach to mobiles.

“A lot of people have the wrong reference point about what has happened before,” he said.

Mr Hawkins said mobile phones had unique features yet to be exploited.

“Some see a mobile as a tiny TV, others want to put a PC in there and, to the game industry, it’s a gimpy Gameboy,” he said.

Game firms should be trying to exploit the new opportunities that phones offer rather than try to do the same old things, he says.

Mobile gamers are less interested in better and better graphics and more in the social side of the experience, he said.

“They are willing to adopt these forms of media because they can control how they use it. People are giving up fidelity in exchange for personalisation, for a feeling of ownership.”

Evidence for this comes in the popularity of ringtones, wallpapers, text and multimedia messages.

“These have become a surprisingly big deal and have taken a lot of people by surprise and none of them are a telephone call. This first generation is fairly static and you are not really interacting with it. Nut that’s about to change. The next generation will have a lot more involvement with it.”

Future programs could include Tamagotchi-type creatures that live in a phone that people raise and care for. Another could be an island or castle that an owner builds and decorates themselves. Gamers could get rewards for spending so much time caring for their castle, island or creature.

“These help to build a relationship with phone, so it’s not just a lump of metal,” he argued.

The popularity of the mobile is also due to the fact that it lets people connect with others. As a technology the mobile phone is helping to shorten the distance that life inserts between friends and families, he believes.

“We are all accustomed to tremendous social intimacy but a lot of that been lost over last couple of hundred years. Now people have a tremendous need to re-establish they social links and rebuild that intimacy that was lost.

“A mobile phone is a better way to do that, because its always with you and means you do not have to define your social life as the time you are sitting in front of your computer.”

The future then for Mr Hawkins are games and programs that let people connect, on their own terms, with anyone and everyone else.

Mobile gaming leagues are a good example of how this will play out, said Mr Hawkins. A surprisingly large number of people who play mobile games sign up for these online leagues, he said.

He describes the ranking systems as “massively single player gaming” because although people play by themselves they can see how they measure up against others.

The potential audience for these small games is huge, says Mr Hawkins, far bigger than the numbers who play console or PC games.

Currently it takes a mid-to-top end phone to play games but, said Mr Hawkins, within a couple of years the majority of the all world’s 1.5 billion phones will be game-capable.

“It could go from almost zero to 2 billion in five years and there’s never been anything close to that before,” he said. “This is the dawn of man and nothing has really happened yet.”