Forgot your password?
typodupeerror

Cellphone Gaming Market Lacks Pull 54

Posted by Zonk
from the not-fun-equals-no-money dept.
The Washington Post reports that, despite the best wishes of executives, the cellphone market has not yet taken off the way companies like Jamdat may have hoped for. From the article: "McAteer said the phone interface that consumers access when downloading games -- which usually lists only game titles -- is one of the biggest reasons behind the slow growth. As a result, the games that tend to sell best are those with instant name recognition among consumers, such as Pac-Man or Tetris"
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Cellphone Gaming Market Lacks Pull

Comments Filter:
  • by yagu (721525) * <[moc.liamg] [ta] [ugayay]> on Wednesday May 03, 2006 @12:19PM (#15254637) Journal

    I've got news for the game makers for the cell phone industry. Your market is probably close to saturated at 3%. Playing games on cell phones is a diversion, not an avocation. Users and potential buyers of games comprise a tiny fraction of the cell-phone audience. Almost any game at all, especially simple ones, will do to kill that 10 minutes wait at the train station. Anything more than a click away to add to the existing suite of games with the phone is no temptation.

    I think the cell phone industry greatly overestimates any appetite for the cell phone to be the ultimate phone, pda, gaming machine, pc, soda fountain, reference, ad nauseum. Our wallets are finite (well, mine is), and we're not going to pay and spend time managing a suite of games to play on a cell phone where

    • screen resolution sucks
    • battery life sucked up by games subtracts from cell phone availability
    • games are redundant additions to consumers existing collection on other devices

    Maybe the strategy is to find the endpoint of the consuming public's collective appetite for pay-for gaming on cell phones. I think they're close.

    • by Radres (776901) on Wednesday May 03, 2006 @12:30PM (#15254737)
      I agree with just about everything you said, however I disagree with this point:

      "battery life sucked up by games subtracts from cell phone availability"

      I use my phone for playing games, and I since I charge my phone every day, I don't really notice the battery life running out as being a problem. I realize I'm not everyone, but it can be done.
      • My phone is good for about 1 hr of talking. If I forget to charge it even a single day (say I fall asleep before plugging it in), or I get a long call from an old friend, it battery is pretty much dead. I wouldn't even consider playing games on it with that battery life, even ignoring the poor screen and interface.
    • I completely agree. I am a Verizon subscriber (commence hate posts) and I refuse to have anything to do with their download network at $4 a pop for stuff like ringtones, games, and whatever. Plus, they charge you airtime during the day so you end up getting screwed coming and going. Until the price of content decreases somewhat ($15 a month for their music service plus $4 a song is insane) I am not going to even think about using it. Of course, Verizon takes the tactic of removing any game from your pho
    • Other reasons why cell-phone gaming sucks:

      * A cell phone has a lousy interface for gaming.

      * The LCD screens on most phones have horribly high latency, making action games hard to play.

      * The low horsepower of most phones prevent development of complex games.

      I admit, I used to be big on cell phone games when I got my first phone that supported them. But after getting burned with a half-dozen asstastic titles, I realized that a PDA or a Gameboy would be far better for gaming, and broke the habit. The only pe
      • "A cell phone has a lousy interface for gaming."

        This is a very broad generalisation. Obviously very demanding twitch-based games are out of bounds, but many other kinds of games aren't adversely affected at all. Every control scheme has limited scope. I can't play a fighting game on my PC keyboard, or most flavours of RTS with a joypad.

        "The LCD screens on most phones have horribly high latency, making action games hard to play."

        This may have been an issue three of four years ago. Virtually any phone you buy
        • I can't play a fighting game on my PC keyboard

          You need practice. The keyboard is second only to the arcade stick when it comes to controlling fighting games.
        • As someone who's owned two Atari Lynxes and three cell phones with color screens for gaming, I can state firsthand that I wish the phones had screens as good as the Lynxes's's's.
    • I would've liked to see some commentary in the article about the gaming markets in Europe and Asia, which are much more developed. These things always lag behind in North America, and the article was very US-centric in that regards. Culturally, it may well be that mobile games will never be as big in NA as they are in Europe and Asia.
      • I would've liked to see some commentary in the article about the gaming markets in Europe and Asia, which are much more developed. These things always lag behind in North America, and the article was very US-centric in that regards. Culturally, it may well be that mobile games will never be as big in NA as they are in Europe and Asia.

        They may be bigger in certain specific markets than they are in the US, but I think you're probably overestimating their popularity in Europe and Asia as a whole. I would like
    • Your points can be summarized in a different way. A cellphone is designed for voice calls. Talking. A gameboy advance is designed for gaming. These guys are making games for cellphones, a bit like Office2003 for the Xbox. The numeric pad is bad for games, battery life is abysmal for the sake of size and cost and the titles are really bad in most cases. No wonder people just get pacman and tetris.

      They should put up the same games in flash as adverts for people to play and get used to, before they try downloa
    • screen resolution sucks

      Not even the problem, IMO. I can't find a game as good as one of my favorite Atari 2600 games on my cellphone, although it has the screen resolution, color depth and processing power to play such games. But if I had a clone of Pitfall! on my cellphone, I wouldn't even play it much, because the controls suck and the screen is too small.

  • Could it possibly be because, when you 'buy' a game, you don't get it forever at that price? You're just leasing it in x-month intervals that automatically renew and you keep getting charged.
    • This is where all the revenue comes from. People don't realize they remain subscribed and pay for a year's worth of a game before noticing the $2-$3 monthly payment tacked on to their phone bill.
    • Yes you do. (Score:3, Informative)

      by fondue (244902)
      Many providers/vendors offer games for a one off payment that you then own forever.

      The fact that you typically can't transfer the games to your new handset if/when you upgrade is another matter...
    • I'd consider it if my $5 for the cellular version of the internet included the games in its price and let me play what I want. But right now, I have to pay $5 a month for the wireless internet service, and then pay a monthly fee for a game I may play for five minutes and decide I hate.

      Which leads me to another point. I'm not going to pay [insert carrier here] $5 to play a game which I may hate, but still have to pay $5 for. Not to mention that when I switch phones, I have to pay for it again for the same mo
  • No market (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Opportunist (166417) on Wednesday May 03, 2006 @12:25PM (#15254686)
    IF you have money to buy cell games, you also have money for a "real" portable game console.

    IF you can have a real game console, why bother playing on something that can, at best, recreate the experience of a C64?

    Seriously, I was pondering getting into the cell game market. But the devices simply don't have the necessary hardware to create current game. A halfway decent game fills your available memory, you have a display the size of a stamp and a resolution that makes you wonder if that what you're shooting at is supposed to be a plane or a donkey.

    Now add that half of the games won't work on YOUR cellphone, and if, your display will probably not match the one the programmer used (i.e. you'll either be missing some vital information which gets cut off or you have some black bars), i.e. a lack of interface standards to work with, add that more often than not the programmers used to create those games aren't quite the creme of game creators (most cell games are hacked together by recently graduated students, it's for most their first job ever) and you have a clean picture why the market doesn't take off:

    After the first game, you never buy one again.
    • Oh it can do better than a C64 - i have a flying game on my phone that looks like it could be on the genesis or SNES. The real problem is that for games any more complex than PacMan, you need a controller suited to gaming, and a tiny number pad and miniscule directional pad just doesn't cut it unless you have baby fingers.
      • What I COULD see on cells is RPGs, Adventures, Business-Sims or other games that don't rely on flashy graphics and fast input.

        Unfortunately, those games rely heavily on good gameplay and interesting ideas. And that's definitly out of fashion today.
        • Re:No market (Score:2, Interesting)

          by Amouth (879122)
          all you need is edge and a terminal/telnet client.. i use my pda in wifi areas to muck around on muds while i wait.. kinda fun and not to bad with the thumb keyboard attachment.. as for cell phone.. i still have an old analog phone so i don't think i can get games other than "lets see how far we can throw it" or the clasic "what happens when a car runs it over"
        • Re:No market (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Radres (776901)
          The best game that I found for the cell phone is a version of Texas Hold 'Em. Once you figure out the computer's betting patterns, it gets old, but up until that point it's a good tool for getting used to how conservative players play the game.

          It's amazing how complex they try to make the graphics for a simple card game. Why couldn't they just display the cards and bets in a way that I could see them? I really don't need pictures of the people I'm "playing" against.

          I also tried chess, and I'm not a great
        • I've written an MMORPG (no major content yet, though) for a cellphone, but the company that handles the game catalog said they weren't interested. Apparently, it's too avante garde for them, and they want simple things like, you guessed it, tetris and pacman :\ Sad thing is, I've had more fun playing my unfinished RPG on my phone than I have with half the games in their catalog.
    • Exactly: they seem to think that because lots of people are buying consoles, mobile phone games will sell as well. But the market for mobile phone games is virtually the inverse of the 'gamer' market.

      The main reason for their failure will always be the controls, IMHO. Phone keypads will never be good for gaming - even Snake on the old black and white Nokias was pushing the limits of controllability. The N-Gage, a mobile phone specifically designed for games, still had seriously crappy controls compared to t
    • "add that more often than not the programmers used to create those games aren't quite the creme of game creators (most cell games are hacked together by recently graduated students, it's for most their first job ever)"

      This is definitely true. I have a Texas Hold 'Em game for my phone that is pretty good. Only problem is sometimes a 3 card will be used like a 9 when evaluating hands. How could they miss such a large bug? I wrote the company that made the game, they wrote me back once, and then ignored me
      • Are you talking about the Magmic Texas Hold-em? One thing I've discovered is that although the free version has horrible AI (at least one player will _never_ fold, allowing you to clear the table after only a few good hands), the commercial version is at least up to a junior varsity level in it's betting patterns. Each version is apparently better than the last.

        It does have some annoying behavior still though, like the occasional guy who comes in and puts it all in before the flop goes down every round.
    • by mypalmike (454265)
      a display the size of a stamp and a resolution that makes you wonder if that what you're shooting at is supposed to be a plane or a donkey.

      The developers of "Flying Donkey Storm 3" really did some amazing work. You definitely can tell you're shooting at donkeys.
    • IF you can have a real game console, why bother playing on something that can, at best, recreate the experience of a C64?

      Because if you have an unlocked system, you can legitimately play independently developed freeware on it. Many phones and handheld video game systems use the lockout chip business model, but phones are less likely to be locked than Nintendo or Sony handheld video game systems. Many people who post to Slashdot prefer to buy a phone on the open market which has not been locked, get the

  • by Alpha27 (211269) on Wednesday May 03, 2006 @12:30PM (#15254733)
    A friend of mine has the razr, and he has Star Wars Battlefront on it. I'm thinking nice, but... what exactly am I going to play on a phone for a game like that.

    It was worse than I imagined. You used your arrow keys to move the crosshair to shot enemies that popped up like a cheesy carnival game. Absolutely horrible.

    I remember the days when a cellphone was just a cellphone.
    • I remember the days when a cellphone was just a cellphone.

      And I remember when people like you were annoying little kids at school, who I could choose not to hang around with, and beat you up occasionally so that you would get the message. I seems you still haven't gotten the message, so I'm coming round!

      I too remember those days, when cellphones didn't have much or a display, on the numbers you dialed (and not all of those). There was no indicators for signal or battery, there was no date or time (
  • Why's that, again? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Red Flayer (890720) on Wednesday May 03, 2006 @12:32PM (#15254748) Journal
    It's not the format for buying games that keeps me from buying games on my cell phone. It's three things:

    1) Battery life. I'm not going to waste charge on gaming. I need my cell phone too much, and spend too much time without access to a charger.

    2) Cost. Considering that my Verizon game service charges something like $6-8 per game, why would I bother? Chances are I'll feel like I wasted that money -- I have better gaming experiences with stuff we wrote in BASIC and Pascal in grade school.

    3) Suckage. Besides the fact that so many games available for cell phones suck, the phone itself sucks for gaming. From screen size to processor speed to control issues, a cell phone is a sub-par mobile gaming device. If I'm going to spend $400 on a phone that handles games well, I'd just as soon buy a PSP or a DS, thank you.
  • Too Complex (Score:3, Insightful)

    by outSource (968562) on Wednesday May 03, 2006 @12:36PM (#15254794) Homepage
    Or, maybe, developers are missing their mark. Some of the games are simply too complex to be fully enjoyed in a cell phone, particularly with the often whacky control layouts. I have Call of Duty on my Motorola V262, and it's a pain to play. The controls are cramped, and its just too complex to be easily enjoyed on a cell phone. Dodging bullets and shooting bad guys just wasn't meant to be on a cell phone.

    That's the reason, IMO, that Pac-Man and Tetris do so well. The controls are easy, straight forward, and the games are easy to get a hold on. Let's keep in mind that the average cell phone user probably isn't a gamer, and is looking for an easy-to-play distraction in a game on the cell phone. They don't want something complex. Pac-Man requires use of the little D-Pad (at least on my phone), and that's it. Tetris works with the D-Pad and OK button. Easy! Enjoyable! Sold!

    Cell phone developers should look at ways to take games, simplify them to work on the control layouts available for cell phones, and keep things simple. Of course, the people interested in games on cell phones will primarily be gamers, but cell phones just can't handle complex games, and they really shouldn't try to port games like CoD, Splinter Cell, or any of the other kinds. Keep it simple. I'm sure some people would even enjoy Pong, or a simplified top-down shooter like 1942. I would certainly buy one of those games. In short, cell phone developers should K.I.S.S.
  • That market won't take off because gaming is the wrong application for cell phones.
    Phones are mainly aimed to personal mobile communication.
    Even the camera and the limited PIM features are used very rarely and usually only if there's no other option.
    We all hope that manufacturer will focus on better communication features, capabilities and performances instead of wondering about stupid questions!
    Mobile gaming can be accomplished with, say, a PSP. And if you need multi plyer gaming, link it to your mobile
    • But the cell phone is something you always carry around, so I think it does make sense to put in all these additional features beyond voice communication. I actually use notepad and calendar applications frequently on my phone, and I'd really love to see them improved.
  • Perhaps instead of trying to import complex games to the cellphone, which at best is only frustrating, the game developers should try a different approach. Simple games that you compete against other people in real time. COmpetitive Tetris, baseball, etc. Most cellphone games that I've quit, have had annoying interfaces, the ones that I've kept have been simple - Solitaire, freecell, block pushing games. Real time shooters just won't appeal to me - maybe a MUD might be a better approach.
  • Once you have the cell phone version of tetris and break out. Those are the only two you need.

    The only time I find myself playing cell phone games is when I am waiting in a lobby, waiting on someone, or just need to kill time if I arrive for an appointment early.

    If I fly or go on a road trip, I'm probaly going to bring the DS though and won't think twice about opening the cell phone to kill time.

    My cell phone is just clunky and slow for anything advances like a Gameboy.

    One of my earlier cell phones had a co
    • Once you have the cell phone version of tetris and break out. Those are the only two you need.

      You are obviously young and inexperienced. Frogger is by far the best game for mobile phones,

      However, you look at it, a cell phone with the compuing power and graphics capability of a 1980s computer is probably only suitable for running the kind of games that were designed and developed on computers with similar power and graphics. And they have almost all been done, and are available for free. But let me know

      • If memory serves Lesuire suit larry had a text based command input system. It might be able to be ported to a PDA with a keyboard but not a cell phone.

        You had to tell Larry what to do. Open Door, walk left, Screw the hooker, put ice on your face, pay cabbie.

        Of course I was 12 at that time and I didn't play those kinds of games, or hid them on my fathers computer where he couldn't find them. I didn't have specially designed boot disks to load up specfic games with advanced memory requirements.
  • Another reason (Score:3, Insightful)

    by jgoemat (565882) on Wednesday May 03, 2006 @01:05PM (#15255093)
    I don't want to pay $4 for a game that I will only play on my cellphone (and therefore won't be very fun) and that will expire in 90 days so I'll have to pay again. Ridiculous...

    How hard would it be to have trial versions that only give you a couple of levels or that expire after a few days?

  • Expand on games that already exist! For instance, all the cool stuff added to tetris DS, that could probably in one form or another be added to the cellphone version of it, use the known brand names to sell new products. You might get hit with a few fees for lisencing, but you'd probably market alot more that way. Don't go crazy tho, don't sell Pac Man Chess or anything like that. Also, keep the games simple, one of the best selling series of PC games are the simple shockwave games. If you try to make compl
  • I totally agree (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Jtheletter (686279) on Wednesday May 03, 2006 @01:18PM (#15255203)
    Just this week I was looking for a cellphone game to waste some time while waiting around, and the interface was almost completely useless. For reference this is the Verizon Get-It-Now network. The categories - and there are many of them - aren't what you see at online gaming stores or sites, plus if a game falls into two categories it's still only listed in one place. There is no search feature to find out if the game you want is even offered, forcing you to look through every catergory since it might be in a different one than you expect.

    Plus who is writing the descriptions for these games? They tell you almost nothing about them, and since the trial version is usually $2 to $4 it's a pretty big expense just to see if you even like the game. A screenshot at the very least would be extremely helpful, but perhaps a 5 second demo clip, or even a [gasp!] free 10 minute trial would entice people to buy more games since it wouldn't be such a shot in the dark.

    Also I don't know about what other carriers offer but I just don't understand how the widely popular PopCap games aren't offered. I believe they license to Microsoft, but either way someone is missing out on a lucrative phone game market on that end. I think popcap games would be perfect for a phone - quick, colorful, insanely addictive, and completely a temporary distraction, easy to pick up and no need to desperately save your place.

    Who knows? Maybe all of those games and more ARE available right now, but I'll never know because I'm never going to pay $4 just to find out if SuperUltraMegaShapeBlaster is something I'd like to play.

    • Also I don't know about what other carriers offer but I just don't understand how the widely popular PopCap games aren't offered.

      Some are, at least. There's a godawful port of Bejeweled that comes pre-loaded (only as a demo, natch) on my Motorola V220.

  • McAteer said the phone interface that consumers access when downloading games -- which usually lists only game titles -- is one of the biggest reasons behind the slow growth. As a result, the games that tend to sell best are those with instant name recognition among consumers, such as Pac-Man or Tetris.

    Dude, I said the exact same thing [kiyon.com] three months ago.

  • > the cellphone market has not yet taken off the way
    > companies like Jamdat may have hoped for

    I can't imagine why paying $3.99 to download a game that looks like something from the Atari 2600 days and plays on a tiny little screen with clumsy buttons, that self-destructs after one month, where I'd have to pay another $3.99 to get it again.

    Nope, I can't see anything in any of those issues that might be harming the spread of the concept.
  • Idiot companies (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Lord_Dweomer (648696) on Wednesday May 03, 2006 @02:28PM (#15255796) Homepage
    The cellphone companies need to realize that people don't want to pay $5 per game. That is an ABSURD price for what amounts to a free Flash game. Top that off with the fact that they expect you to plop down money on the game when all you know about it is the title and a brief uninformative description if you're lucky.

    In the information age, people making game purchasing decisions where they are actually expected to pay money (and $5 is not insignificant) expect to have reviews, screenshots, possibly even videos at their fingertips to educate them before they make their purchasing decision.

    Of course I'm sure the cell companies are reluctant to supply that otherwise everybody would know what utter crap 99.9% of those games are.

    • If only there was some kind of computer network where we could research products and services at our leisure...

      But less facetiously, you are absolutely right. It should be a basic requirement for people to be able to check out what they're buying, at the point of sale. The major obstacles to this are the carriers' control over the channel, and the prohibitively expensive cost of data traffic (for screenshots, demos, etc.).

      Here in Europe we're just starting to see free demos of mobile games which are time-lo
  • by ilyaaohell (866922) on Wednesday May 03, 2006 @02:48PM (#15255943)
    I work for one of the top cellphone game developers, and I have a different perspective on this than you guys. It's amazing how many nay-sayers there are here, despite the fact that the cellphone gaming market is one of the most fastest-growing gaming industries today. My company, for example, has operated for several years and in just the last year had increased their profits by several hundred percent. In just the first quarter of THIS year, we've just announced that our revenue is up by another 50%, and right now the sky's the limit.

    Yes, many games aren't ideally suited for the cell phone's controls, but considering that many of our games are 3D and have the graphical levels equivalent to a PS1, to say that the games look like "Atari" or whatever some of you guys have been saying is ridiculous. All I'm saying is that citing technical limitations when commenting against the cell phone game industry is ridiculous and shows just how out of touch you are with the technology that is already out there and owned by millions of people RIGHT NOW. Just because you or your friends are stuck with something like a Samsung A620 or an old Razr model doesn't mean that many other people own better devices.

    The days of slowly-refreshing LCD displays and pitiful resolutions are over. Yes, those phones still come out, and they're given out like candy to the lowest-paying customers, but many people already have extremely high-performing phones (LG 8100 is one of my favorites). The resolution is very high (considering the size of the screen) and with recent announcements by some graphics hardware manufacturers of increasing their cell phone presense, expect cell phones to become exponentially more powerful in the very near future.

    As far as controls go, we're now seeing ergonomically-designed phones like the LG 9800 (look this beauty up) that are the size of normal phones but, when flipped open, have a full QWERTY keyboard and directional pads that work great for gaming. The number of models that work like this is, again, going to increase, just like the hardware performance has been increasing at an astronomical pace in just the last 3 years. So yes, maybe some games aren't suited for SOME current phone models yet, but there are already devices out there that ARE, and the number of these models will only increase.

    Now, I grant you that the pricing scheme of "renting" games, and the fact that cell phone carriers do a piss-poor job of marketing the content, stands in the way of wider availability. But to say that there's no market out there (when it's growth has yet to slow down) or that the games suck (read the reviews, many of these games are critically-acclaimed), or that the hardware isn't suited for gaming (look at all the MODERN phones coming out now, and all the phones that will be out in a year or two) is RIDICULOUS and shows nothing but ignorance on your part.

    Mobile gaming isn't for everyone, and the best sellers will likely always be quick puzzle games and 2D platformers, but that doesn't mean that millions of people don't want to buy them (they do, and more will in the future), or that these games can't be wonderfully-designed, or that they all have to look like Pong.
  • There's really some good cell phone games. My Sanyo 8300 has some 3D games for it that look and play good, a Zelda clone that's good, etc. They won't replace a handheld gaming system but they have come a long way from the old days of cell phone games. I use my phone most for reading ebooks and GPS navigation.
  • If you just take the free phones your provider offers, then games won't be that great. But if you get a decent phone [s60.com] and have a decent [tmobile.com] provider [cingular.com] there are plenty of free games. There are ports of Doom [mbnet.fi], Wolfenstein 3D [sourceforge.net], and Frozen Bubble [sourceforge.net]. There are also free or cheap emulators for the Genesis [allaboutsymbian.com], the [yewsoft.com] NES [vampent.com], and the SNES [vampent.com].
    • If you just take the free phones your provider offers, then games won't be that great.

      Dopey me, and here I thought it was the responsibility of developers to write quality games for their phone! I didn't know the real solution was to diss your market for not buying better gear...
      • What leads you to think that phone manufacturers are obligated to write quality games for their phones? As far as 3rd party development, it's the same as PC gaming. If you aren't willing to spend the money, you'll fall behind.

Dreams are free, but you get soaked on the connect time.

Working...