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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.