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Last Updated: Wednesday, 21 December 2005, 09:02 GMT
Mobile games pay off for Ubisoft
People playing on a Nokia N-Gage
Gameloft has made games for Nokia's N-Gage
Ubisoft's venture into gaming on the go appears to be paying off.

Its mobile gaming subsidiary, Gameloft, has sold almost as many games as Ubisoft, said boss Yves Guillemot.

The French maker of titles such as Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell and King Kong is competing with other game giants for a slice of the mobile pie.

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

Small independent companies such as I-Play and In-Fusio, rather than the big publishers, have so far dominated the mobile gaming market.

But this is changing as the big games powerhouses start to push into mobile gaming.

New gamers

Ubisoft has Gameloft; and earlier this month, EA snapped up mobile games firm Jamdat for $680m (390m).

Although EA makes some mobile titles, the deal boosted its presence in what is becoming a growing part of the gaming market.

Splinter Cell screenshot
In a sense, our brands are now known and played by people all over the world
Yves Guillemot, Ubisoft
The big games makers see mobile gaming as a way to attract more people into its more serious gaming titles on consoles.

Casual gamers include a large proportion of women, and the games industry is keen to tap into that potential market too.

"I really believe the mobile business is going to extend our business a lot in the future," Mr Guillemot told the BBC News website. "They will bring a lot more people to games."

"It took me a while to consider that it was a great business. But now what I see is that Gameloft almost sells as many games as we do."

At just a few dollars, the price of a mobile game is a fraction of its console equivalent, so revenue is far lower.

But Mr Guillemot said low prices meant Gameloft was able to reach gamers in developing nations.

"They are creating games that are accessible, more the arcade style that we had in the past," he said.

"They can take more risk in terms of design as games are not as expensive and the distribution is broad.

"In a sense, our brands are now known and played by people all over the world."

Retro gaming

Ubisoft games like the Tom Clancy Splinter Cell titles have done well, but not all console games translate well to the small screen.

Instead arcade games such as Tetris and Space Invaders routinely top the charts. Other classic games do well, such as pool and card games, as they are seen as appealing to casual gamers.

"Ubisoft's success with Gameloft and EA's recent purchase of Jamdat reinforces the credibility of what is already an incredibly exciting industry," said I-Play acting CEO David Gosen.

"On a more cautious note, however, traditional video games players and media companies alike trying to enter this space, should not underestimate the complexity in building and delivering quality games.

"Success in the video games business does not equal success in mobile."

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