Understanding Video Games text-book
Wireless gaming

Date posted: May 14, 2006
Updated: May 16, 2006

The area of wireless gaming is not very developed and research into the field is limited. It is time to spark an interest in the field and attempt to gather any knowledge that has been accumulated.

However, what we do know is that the volume of the wireless market is increasing. The I-mode service from NTT DoCoMo is a good example. Here, the mobile games are very popular with 25% of the users subscribing to games.

It is worth taking a closer look at the wireless market, as the entertainment market seems to be moving towards the wireless area. A prognosis from Motorola comes up with the following numbers:
Mobile phone with gaming capabilities (Nokia press photo)

2000: 165$ Billion (wired 92% / wireless 8%)
2005: 236$ Billion (wired 68% / wireless 32%)

Source: Motorola

Currently, the different wireless games can be categorized into two different types:
1. Embedded video games have been quite successful. These games are preinstalled on the different wireless devices - examples are Snake on Nokia and Kung-Fu on Siemens.
2. The other is WAP, which has been quite disappointing.

It is hard to make a top 10 of embedded games, as it would be an indication of popular phones rather than of games. However, for WAP it can be done. The Wireless Gaming Network in the start of 2002 identified the most popular WAP games:

Top 10 WAP games
1. Hangman
2. Tic Tac Toe
3. Higher / Lower
4. Black Jack
5. Fours
6. Code breaker
7. Anagram
8. Tanks
9. Mines
10. Poker

Source: Wireless Games / Digital Bridges

The games played at the moment are not competitors to retail computer games. Rather, they fit into the same niche that we know from the simple games on the web playable on Gamespy, Zone, Pogo etc.

An article of the trends in development of mobile games by Seppo Kuivakari (2001) support this. He states that developers seem to be starting from scratch and we are seeing the same games that we played 20 years ago on other platforms. However the multiplayer potential is being explored in games based on anything ranging from SMS to new 3G-technology.

Up till know everyone has agreed that the mobile game area holds great potential. It is often conceived of as a part of the breakthrough for mobile devices as the future platform - hence the area is often called mobile gaming (m-gaming) however this is a very narrow definition. One should at least consider three platforms:
Handheld computers with brands like Compaqs IPAQ, Palm and Psion, the last struggling to survive.
Mobile phones and WAP phones are hot topics but up till now the games have been simple and have had severe limitations thus not really adding anything new to games.
Handheld game consoles, currently dominated by Gameboy. This market is quite large with Nintendo expecting to sell 2 millions copies of their new Game Boy Advance in 2001. The big telecom players have already seen the writing on the wall and believe games will be an important factor in driving the adoption of 3G technologies. The four biggest operators Ericsson, Motorola, Siemens and Nokia have joined forces in building the ‘Universal Mobile Games Platform’. Beside thism they have arranged alliances with the game industry. Sony and Nokia have entered into a partnership
Palm PDA. New models have wireless capabilities

The Swedish firm Houdini, which develops wireless and branding games has made one of the most interesting pioneer mobile gaming solutions today with the game Ground Zero made for Ericsson and awarded several prices. Director Patrick Gardner has also written a piece on branding and games, in which he discusses the challenges in developing the mobile game Ground Zero. He especially highlights the potential for combining learning, entertainment and branding. With games all this is possible although this is not a specific attribute of wireless gaming.

The links below can give you more information on wireless gaming:

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