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Last Updated: Thursday, 2 September, 2004, 10:59 GMT 11:59 UK
Games giant muscles in on mobiles
EA game for GameBoy Advance The Sims: Bustin' Out
EA already makes games for portable gaming devices
Games giant Electronic Arts is making a serious move into mobile gaming.

It is joining forces with the Scottish mobile entertainment firm Digital Bridges to make more of its games available for mobile phones.

Among the big titles from EA coming to mobiles is a version of the best-selling The Sims game.

Mobile gaming is expected to explode in the coming years, with analysts predicting that 220 million will be playing games on mobile phones by 2009.

"Looking ahead, there will be much excitement about the opportunities offered by taking gaming outside," said Gerhard Florin, Senior Vice President of Electronic Arts.

"Consumers around the world are increasingly moving to interactive entertainment," he told delegates at the European Games Network exhibition in London.

Lucrative area

Through its new partnership, EA hopes to tap into the expertise of Digital Bridges in developing and distributing games to mobiles.

The games giant already produces versions of its big games for the handheld devices like the GameBoy Advance.

Pacman on a mobile phone
Mobile gaming is set to explode
And it also has plans to create versions for upcoming devices like Sony's PS and Nintendo's DS.

A factor in EA's decision to push into downloadable games is the huge amount that people spend on ringtones.

"We thought long and hard about this," Mr Florin told BBC News Online.

"The mobile market is still very small and it is still very early, but we believe it is the right moment."

"We believe that the mobile platform is a key part of our gaming world and that is why we are increasing our investment in mobile gaming."

EA also sees the phone as a way of reaching people, particularly women, who would not normally play video games.

"We can link consumers closer to our franchises and find new consumers via the mobile market and then get them to our console world," said Mr Florin.

"While we create and produce games for the mobile platform, the expertise of Digital Bridges will help us bring new opportunities for game players to join the trend with the familiar, user-friendly format of the mobile phone," said Mr Florin.

EA plans to release mobile versions of three of its big titles for this year, Fifa Football 2005, Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2005 and Need for Speed Underground 2.

Next year, gamers can expect a mobile phone version of The Sims, as well as further titles, said EA.

In the long-term, the company is looking at ways of linking its mobile and consoles games.

A gamer could, for example, play The Sims on a mobile and then upload the changes to the game on a PC of console at home.

But EA admitted this vision of networked gaming is still some way off.

Game makers are realising that mobile gaming is a lucrative area for their products.

According to a recent report by analysts Ziff Davis, the popularity of mobile gaming in the US doubled in 2004 to more than 16 million household.

Nearly 70% of video gamers in the US own a mobile and 50% play games on their mobile devices, said the Ziff Davis report.

Analysts predict that over the next five years, the market for downloadable games could be worth billions to game makers and the operators of mobile networks.

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