Mobile gaming is set to become big business in the next year and the industry is hoping it will attract a different breed of gamers, women.
While the games industry is churning out better, brighter games, mobile makers are coming out with more colour-screened handsets on which to play them.
Aleks Krotoski gets 'very excited' about games
Both sides of the industry are hoping mobiles will drive more women to gaming because they are easy to use.
But games makers still have to break some of the stereotypical ideas about which games will appeal to men and women, say experts.
Better and brighter?
Industry analysts suggest mobile gaming in the UK will be worth more than £50 million in 2003, with that figure rising to more than £211 million by 2006.
With about 75% of the UK population owning a mobile, it is a big market to capture, says Julian Bright of Total Telecom magazine.
"Mobile games providers have access to a huge potential user base of both sexes, but so far there's still only a small proportion of women gamers," he told BBC News Online.
There is even a UK Mobile Games Championship on 16 October, where 10 top regional thumb bandits will battling it out to become the country's first ever Mobile Games Champion.
The host of the event, presenter Aleks Krotoski, believes women will be driven to mobile gaming by its simplicity and convenience.
As people generally feel more at home with gadgets like mobiles, they will experiment more and want to do different things on them.
Games on handheld devices like phones make the world of gaming more accessible, easy, immediate and straightforward, she says.
"Mobiles have a really simple interface, so you don't need to learn anything else. You don't have to learn a new language, it is just applying your thumbs to different patterns," she told BBC News Online.
"People can pick them up and play immediately."
But, although there are some good examples of appealing games, Aleks thinks the games industry is still not shifting many boundaries in the titles they are offering.
Lara Croft: Tomb Raider which launched in September for those with Vodafone Live, is still about pert bottoms and pert breasts.
"It's brilliant," says Aleks, "mobile users are getting such a good game, but it's not really breaking the boundary.
"Games makers are churning out the old standards,"
At the moment, the manufacturers of devices like GameBoy Advance and mobiles are pushing the boundaries, not the games industry itself.
"One of the biggest challenges is convincing the big wigs they don't have to market games in general to men only," says Aleks.
"Major manufacturers say they won't get their games on the shelves if they don't say they are for men."
Game makers are more aware that the simple and familiar games like Pacman for mobiles which will appeal and drive women - and men - to their mobiles.
"A study in the US recently said women are the number one gamers. But if you look at it, they are playing games like backgammon and solitaire, the more traditional games," explains Aleks.
Pacman on the mobile is familiar and simple
The survey by the US games industry analysts, the Entertainment Software Association, showed adult women now make up a larger percentage of the gaming population than boys aged six to 17.
At a recent mobile games conference, Mark Stanger from developers Eidos suggested 82% of UK mobile gamers were male, while 92% of PlayStation 2 players are men.
"If his figures are correct, then mobiles and handhelds appear to be encouraging some more women to play," says Mr Bright.
"Maybe because they can do so without having to venture into the male-dominated milieu of the gaming shop, and can select games offered by the mobile operator that appeal without having to buy into expensive consoles.
"But they're still very much in the minority."
Do you think mobile phone games have a wider appeal, especially to women, than console games?
In my my family it is 50-50. My son loves to play computer games on the PC and his mobile, my wife and daughter also love them, although not the same games. My son loves shoot-em-up games whilst my daughter and wife prefer more gentle type games. The only thing in common is Tetris. One last point, I don't play computer games at all and would not even have one loaded to my PC.
Colin B, London, UK
Mobile games appeal has nothing to do with simplicity - women are just too busy working, running the household, raising the kids etc. It's only men that have the time to play games.
Liz Nicholson, England
I have been working in the computer games industry for nearly nine years. When I started in 1995 computer games were still considered something only geeks did and this was mainly young men, even most of my friends at the time would comment on the fact that I made games for a living was a nerd thing to do and very very rarely would you find a female interested as it wasn't to do with fashion or things they liked. Now in 2003 computer games are fashionable and thus this is being picked up and tried by more people than ever. All of those friends who would take the mickey now have PC's and Playstations and all have mobile phones and now play more games than I ever have. So I think the key is fashion, mobile phones are fashionable and as such now the user base is bigger than ever before, for men and women. Consoles even though fashionable still have only a fraction of the user base that mobile phones have and as such will never be as popular.
It doesn't matter what platform the game is on, if it isn't a good game or doesn't appeal to the correct audience it shall never succeed.
Luke Stedman, England
I am a female gamer and have been since the days of the ZX Spectrum. I think there are several points here: On the whole (not just with games) women are more the problem solvers than men, they think more logically. So puzzle games like Pacman and Tetris for example do appeal more to women rather than your football/fighting games that men prefer. Women also have a time issue with playing games. They work during the day and then get home and their priorities are housework/looking after children/cooking dinner. They don't have the time/desire to just sit down and play all evening. Women have better things to spend their money on than games. Why spend £40 on a game when you can buy a new top/pair of shoes. Therefore I think that mobile gaming will probably draw more female gamers, because they can play their puzzle games, on the go, for little expense. Perfect! Disclaimer - I love fighting games, never do the housework, and spend all my money on games
Mobile phones are becoming ever more targeted at women, not only for games, the latest technology being developed is to make the screen into a mirror, for make-up application.
Stuart F, UK
I work at one of the UK's leading mobile games companies, and we are proof of the interest in mobile gaming from a new generation of consumers. However, I must disagree with many of the facts in the article. Although the industry is very conscious of the potential for mobile games to have more of a unisex appeal than in the past, it is very hard to find any statistics to show women actually buying and playing mobile games. Simple games such as Backgammon or Snake are great, but are usually pre-installed on the phone - the mobile gaming industry is about getting people to download and pay for games, and it is this part of gaming that girls are not doing as much as boys.
A good example is Japan, the largest and most developed games market in the world right now. Statistics showed that girls made up over 90% of the people downloading pictures and ringtones of certain cartoon characters: but when it came to downloading games based on the same cartoons, less than 1% were girls. I wish I had some easy answers, and I agree that we as developers need to think more about what women would find interesting and exciting. But it may just be that gaming will always be a male dominated activity; Aleks Krotoski's comments are at best naive at at worst unhelpful and plain wrong.
John Ozimek, UK
I'm mildly shocked by some of the comments by women here. "Women are just too busy?" My wife has more time at home than I do (by about three to four hours a day). We do equal share of the household chores, etc. She does play games, but this is limited mainly to The Sims and mainly to weekends. I sometimes play games when I get home to unwind and I generally spend more time playing games than she does. If I was to be equally as sexist, I could comment that the reason women don't play video games as much is because they are "too busy" watching all the soaps on TV.
Stuart Scott, UK
It's not about appeal, it's about availability and convenience. Practically everyone owns a mobile phone and everyone has spare moments waiting for a train or something similar. Playing with your mobile in some form or another seems a logical time-wasting exercise for everyone, surely?
Stephen Farrugia, Malta
The mass appeal of mobile gaming to the female community is of concern to developers. The male market demands more complex, demanding and challenging titles, some games these days require upwards of 20 hours for completion. Could these games simply be aimed towards the fairer sex? Growing up with gaming over the past 15 years has taught us 'males' the in's and out's of the developers minds. New gamers will struggle. As a direct result, games considered 'simple' may lose their appeal. Question is, should games be released that are classed female or male?
Andy S, England
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