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Last Updated: Friday, 24 March 2006, 11:58 GMT
Troubled times for mobile games
By Tim Watson
BBC Worldwide

Pac Man on a mobile phone
Classic games like Pac Man have enjoyed a resurgence on mobiles
Game designers interested in making games for mobiles have been told that the industry is facing stagnation.

The message was delivered by the organiser of the Game Developers Conference Mobile, Robert Tercek, at the start of the event in San Jose, US.

In the US, consumption has flattened out with less than 4% of mobile phone users downloading games each month.

In Europe, the average price of a title has fallen but costs to games developers and publishers are rising.

Moreover, some mobile networks are planning to take a greater share of game revenue.

Poor games

The theme was picked up by Mitch Lasky, vice president of the mobile arm of games giant Electronic Arts (EA).

In his keynote to the conference of game developers, he highlighted four enemies threatening the future of mobile games.

Teenagers playing games on their mobiles
Game makers talking about one-button gameplay
He said there was a lack of clear rules governing the relationship between games publishers and developers.

In addition, buying games from a mobile was often a difficult and arduous process for consumers.

Mr Lasky also hit out at the quality of mobiles games, saying there were too just many poor games available.

Some operators, for example, offered almost 300 games to buy and download.

Furthermore, many of these games were solitary experiences, rather than bringing people together via their mobiles.

Throughout the conference there was an acceptance that mobile games had to work well on phones, and not be pale imitations of console games.

There was also a realisation that operators were becoming pickier about the quality of new games that they were prepared to add to their services.

Plethora of handsets

A buzz phrase that echoed during the sessions was "one-button gameplay". This is the idea being that good games can be created that only require the player to use a single button.

There were a good number of high performance 3D games on show in San Jose.

The graphic quality of these is improving as handset manufacturers aim to produce phones with screen resolutions comparable to the PlayStation One.

But the proliferation of handsets means that games publishers and developers are under pressure to make games that work on almost 100 different phones with different technical specifications.

This is a major obstacle, as mobiles differ in features like memory, screen size and resolution, as well as processors and programming language.

For a global release across a hundred different networks, a single game can easily exist in as many as 2500 different versions.

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