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Last Updated: Wednesday, 20 February 2008, 09:10 GMT
The mobile future blog: day two
All this week BBC News website technology editor Darren Waters is using a mobile phone to cover the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco, in text and in video.

ENTRY ONE: GOING BEYOND TETRIS

Classic puzzler Tetris is the world's most successful mobile phone game. It is the number one played, bought and downloaded game in every country in the world that offers games on your phone.

But if you thought mobile phones were only able to play Tetris, or games like Snake, think again.

The current generation of handsets - from the Nokia N95 to the NTT Docomo 905 series - have enough power to offer gaming experiences not unlike late PlayStation, early PlayStation 2 games.

I've just been chatting to a British firm, Imagination Technologies, which develops dedicated graphics accelerators for mobile phones. It produces a bit of silicon that is incorporated into chips made by firms like Texas Instruments and Intel.

And the results are impressive. I'm writing a longer feature for the BBC News website which looks at the development of mobile phone games and some of the issues around why the industry has yet to really take off.

ENTRY TWO: NOKIA PUSH GAMES AS CONVERGED MEDIA

Nokia have made some of the biggest noises at this year's Games Developer Conference, re-launching its NGage platform and committing to games as one of the key services of the converged world.

Anssi Vanjoki, the firms executive vice president for markets, gave one of the keynotes at this year's mobile conference.

In it he challenged game developers to make games that take advantage of the mobile phone - the new graphics capabilities, its location based services, its camera, in essence the phone's place as an always on, always converged device.

Nokia needs to succeed where it failed last time around. The original NGage was a device but now it has been re-born as a service; a platform for games that works on a range of handsets.

The problem for Nokia is that the mobile game market has not taken off as many observers had expected. It may be a $5 billion industry but less than 5% of mobile users tend to play games.

Nokia is trying to fix many of the problems inherent in gaming - letting users try out games before they buy them, making it easier to find and download games, and pushing titles that take advantage of the phone as a device.

The challenge is huge, not least because the mobile phone market is so dynamic and subject to pressures and forces beyond Nokia's control, such as data charges, network bandwidth, the carrier's attitude to gaming etc.

It will be interesting to see what happens because if everything goes to Nokia's plans then the Finnish company could well join the big boys of gaming: Nintendo, Sony and Microsoft.

ENTRY THREE: GAMING WITH THE POWER OF YOUR MIND

The humble controller has long been a blessing and a curse of gaming. For many people it is a barrier, which is partly why Nintendo's Wii has been so successful.

The Wiimote makes gaming more intuitive and natural. But what about going several steps further and removing the controller altogether?

US/Australian firm Emotiv believe they have done just that with their Epoc headset - a neuroheadset which interprets the neural activity in the brain.

With it you can control action in a game with your thoughts and emotions; attacking creatures with an angry face or lifting objects by just thinking of the movement.

I was shown a demo this afternoon and the technology shows great promise.

But to be clear - the headset doesn't mean you can strap on and run around Halo 3 blasting away at enemies just by thinking.

All of the actions I saw demonstrated were quite considered and slow paced. There was little sense that the device can translate thought to action in milliseconds - the kind of time frame needed for FPS games.

The Epoc will need the support of developers if it is to succeed and to that end Emotiv has released an SDK (software development kit).

Hopefully developers will rise to the challenge because this area of immersion and control could prove to be the breakthrough gaming has longed for.





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