Mobile games and innovation

An interesting account in The Guardian about mobile games:

There's a palpable feeling that mobile games are about to go big. Established publishers such as THQ are creating mobile divisions (...) Mobile phone gaming has yet to deliver a killer application. And before it does, the hurdles preventing this burgeoning market from reaching its full potential have to be removed. There are 60m handsets in the UK, 25% of which have colour screens and are capable of playing games. It's a potentially huge market, says iFone's marketing manager, Enda Carey: "The numbers are just frightening — in 12 months, everyone in the UK will have a colour Java-capable phone, and in countries like India and China, the potential is huge".

The article raises the problem of mobile game on cellphones:

When games are available, they often only work on a selection of handsets, which limits the potential audience.

Handsets also often remain "hot" for only a few months, so by the time a game is written — the development cycle is between six and nine months — the handset may be obsolete. And games themselves are not well designed for the phone's form factor, which is by necessity vertical and by preference small, while a game-pad is typically horizontal (...) This is a considerable array of obstacles, but the mobile gaming market is only four years old, and is changing rapidly. The problem of usability is being addressed with innovative form factors, such as Sony Ericsson's S700i, the keypad of which swivels to facilitate the ergonomic advantage of horizontal control combined with a vertical screen.

What is amazin is this:

The games industry wants to extend established console game brands on to mobiles, but figures show users prefer "casual" games, such as Pool and Tetris. (...) iFone has just released Lemmings. It is a port of an old Amiga game that is very addictive and ideally suited to mobile devices. But, says Vout: "Killer apps must be exclusive to a format. Lemmings is basically a clone of the Amiga version, so while it's great, it's not the killer app.

Yes that's what the users want! How to engage them in other scenarios (alternate reality gaming appears to be an interesting option)