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105 Computers & Internet > Video Games  
Wireless Game Development in C plus with BREW

We are now in the 21st century-the astounding world of the future! An era of flying cars. Tele-transportation. Jet packs. The utopian existence dismissed as a mere science fantasy conjured up in the minds of novelists and dreamers has come about!

Well, perhaps not.

One thing we do have that a few short decades ago was cutting-edge sci-fi is the mobile phone. Just like the trusty communicator on Star Trek, a device that fits in the palm of our hand can interact with people thousands of miles away as we traverse the alien landscape of the planet we call Earth. Now, I never saw Captain Kirk lose his connection with the Enterprise when passing under a bridge, but hey, that's the 23rd century. We still have a little way to go.

Originally, mobile phones were just that-phones. But the relentless pace of computer technology has transformed the mobile phone into a complicated computing device. Sure, it is not going to rival the power of your desktop machine anytime soon, but the latest models coming out from major manufacturers contain increasing amounts of computing power to drive their personal digital assistant-like features. In fact, some phones have merged the functionality of the Palm and PocketPC platforms to become full-fledged phone-PDA hybrids.

These newer devices include one major feature that we coders can truly appreciate: They are programmable. Previously, when you purchased a mobile phone, you got the features it came with and nothing more. This usually included a simple phonebook utility, perhaps a clock with an alarm function, and maybe even a primitive game or two. Newer phones can actually download small programs that add to the phone's built-in suite of applications. Among the various types of programs available, games are proving to be very popular. There are not many available just yet, but the mobile phone gaming industry is projected to grow rapidly as we progress into the decade. The key to this potentially massive industry is the wide audience.

It seems odd that only a few short years ago a mobile phone was considered a luxury. Now the technology is cheap enough that it is almost ubiquitous. Everyone from grade-schoolers to my grandmother has a mobile phone. Millions of people have adopted the technology and, in many cases, are replacing their traditional land-line phones with a mobile.

This makes the audience for games potentially huge. We have already seen the global public's thirst for mobile data products with such services as Japan's iMode or SMS messaging in Europe. The ability to download games and entertainment applets to your phone could become just as common in the years to come as downloading new ringtones.

Some major companies are becoming interested in this growing market. There are many new upstarts in the arena of mobile gaming, but even the old guard of traditional game software publishers is starting to take notice. Right now, the money generated is insignificant to a corporate giant such as Electronic Arts. The average revenue generated from a mobile phone game is tantamount to a rounding error on the bar tab at their last E3 party. However, once it is proven that a large paying audience is ready for this content, mobile gaming development will be in demand.

The great thing about these games is that by the very nature of the device, the projects are limited in scope. You are dealing with a miniscule amount of computing power and very primitive display technology. It is not necessary to harness the resources of massive teams, hundreds of thousands of dollars of equipment, and licensed technology to create a mobile phone title. A resourceful programmer in her basement could create the next big mobile phone hit. With the limited resolution and color depth of most of these devices, she could probably do the artwork herself too! Compare this to the multi-million dollar half decade-long death marches at your average major game company, and you may see this as a healthy alternative to mainstream corporate game development.

 Additional Info
 No. 219
 Posted on 8 June, 2006
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