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Friday, 7 June, 2002, 08:25 GMT 09:25 UK
Good looking games go mobile
Screenshot of game on mobile phone, TTPCom
Games on phones could soon look like this
A British company is looking to woo mobile phone makers with technology it says can turn handsets into portable games consoles.

Cambridge-based TTPCom has developed software that significantly improves the graphic handling ability of a handset and makes it easy to translate games into a phone-friendly format.

The company said any handset maker or mobile operator adopting its software could attract new customers and generate more money from existing users who started playing and downloading games.

But TTPCom could be touting its software too late because many handset makers have already signed deals to put games on phones.

Chip chopping

To anyone who is a keen, or even casual, computer game player it can be a disappointment to pass the time with the games found on popular phone handsets.

But British technology firm TTPCom says that its graphics handling software can vastly improve the games that can be played on a handset.

The Gameboy Advance, Nintendo
Gameboy Advance shares a chip core with mobiles
Danielle Jones, director of business development at TTPCom, said its engineers were prompted to develop the graphics software when they realised that the core of the chip powering Nintendo's Gameboy Advance was the same as found in 80% of the world's phones.

The Gameboy Advance and most mobile handsets use a processor core developed by UK technology firm Arm.

However, Dr Tom Cronk, head of Arm's wireless work, said exact parallels could not be drawn between Nintendo's handheld game console and a handset.

"The performance you can achieve from a physical device varies by the amount of on-chip memory you are prepared to put on your device," he said.

He said the Gameboy chip was made by Sharp and had much more memory on board than those used in handsets.

Despite this, he said, it was possible to get more out of phones and Arm is working on its own graphics software that should start appearing in phones next year.

By the end of 2003 Dr Cronk predicted that people will see "incredible stuff" on the most expensive phones.

He said Arm has got Playstation 1 games such as Tomb Raider running on handset chips in its laboratory.

Cash drive

Ms Jones said the TTPCom graphics software made it possible to show much more sophisticated moving images on a phone than were currently possible.

Tomb Raider screenshot, Eidos
Lara Croft could soon be on your phone
She said the TTPCom software gave a handset the ability to display images at 15 frames per second with three independently moving layers plus another layer of animated icons or sprites.

Ms Jones said it had worked hard to develop a kit for games creators that made it easy to adapt their games for handsets.

Games developer ITE, which makes Gameboy Advance games, has already signed up for the TTPCom software.

TTPCom was not interested in making games itself, she said. Instead it wanted to license its graphics engine to handset makers, games developers and mobile operators.

The ability to download and play good looking games could prove a boost to the fortunes of many mobile operators, she said.

"The graphics engine could help stimulate the market," she said. "And it could certainly stimulate the download market which means airtime and revenue for the operators."

She said the first phones with the graphics engine built in should appear by the end of the year and many converted games should appear about the same time.

Screenshot of Football Fans, In-Fusio
Action in the Football Fans mobile game
TTPCom could face an uphill task convincing handset makers and operators to adopt its software because many of them already have deals to put games on their handsets.

Handset makers such as Philips, Siemens, Sagem and Mitsubishi have signed up with In-Fusio for its game engine.

In-Fusio games are already being played on several networks including Orange France, China Mobile, Vizzavi Europe and Telstra.

Operators like Orange are also developing a range of Wap-based games for customers.

See also:

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