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Last Updated: Monday, 18 April, 2005, 07:27 GMT 08:27 UK
Mobile games to 'go interactive'
By Mark Ward
Technology Correspondent, BBC News website

Trip Hawkins, Digital Chocolate
Hawkins: Mobile gaming is just getting started
Most of the companies making games for mobile phones have got it wrong, says Trip Hawkins, founder of games behemoth Electronic Arts.

Now turning his attention to titles for handsets, his current venture is called Digital Chocolate and, he says, has a very different approach to mobiles.

"A lot of people have the wrong reference point about what has happened before," he said.

Mr Hawkins said mobile phones had unique features yet to be exploited.

"Some see a mobile as a tiny TV, others want to put a PC in there and, to the game industry, it's a gimpy Gameboy," he said.

Game firms should be trying to exploit the new opportunities that phones offer rather than try to do the same old things, he says.

Different strokes

Mobile gamers are less interested in better and better graphics and more in the social side of the experience, he said.

"They are willing to adopt these forms of media because they can control how they use it.

"People are giving up fidelity in exchange for personalisation, for a feeling of ownership."

Text message, BBC
This is the dawn of man and nothing has really happened yet
Trip Hawkins
Evidence for this comes in the popularity of ringtones, wallpapers, text and multimedia messages.

"These have become a surprisingly big deal and have taken a lot of people by surprise and none of them are a telephone call.

"This first generation is fairly static and you are not really interacting with it. Nut that's about to change.

"The next generation will have a lot more involvement with it."

Future programs could include Tamagotchi-type creatures that live in a phone that people raise and care for. Another could be an island or castle that an owner builds and decorates themselves.

Gamers could get rewards for spending so much time caring for their castle, island or creature.

"These help to build a relationship with phone, so it's not just a lump of metal," he argued.

Social work

The popularity of the mobile is also due to the fact that it lets people connect with others.

As a technology the mobile phone is helping to shorten the distance that life inserts between friends and families, he believes.

"We are all accustomed to tremendous social intimacy but a lot of that been lost over last couple of hundred years.

"Now people have a tremendous need to re-establish they social links and rebuild that intimacy that was lost.

"A mobile phone is a better way to do that, because its always with you and means you do not have to define your social life as the time you are sitting in front of your computer."

Nokia 7650 mobile phone, BBC
Games on mobiles are just getting started
The future then for Mr Hawkins are games and programs that let people connect, on their own terms, with anyone and everyone else.

Mobile gaming leagues are a good example of how this will play out, said Mr Hawkins.

A surprisingly large number of people who play mobile games sign up for these online leagues, he said.

He describes the ranking systems as "massively single player gaming" because although people play by themselves they can see how they measure up against others.

The potential audience for these small games is huge, says Mr Hawkins, far bigger than the numbers who play console or PC games.

Currently it takes a mid-to-top end phone to play games but, said Mr Hawkins, within a couple of years the majority of the all world's 1.5 billion phones will be game-capable.

"It could go from almost zero to 2 billion in five years and there's never been anything close to that before," he said.

"This is the dawn of man and nothing has really happened yet."

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