Saturday, November 05, 2005

KOM & Mobile Gaming

Karim Rahemtulla is MD of Infocomm - - a Singaporean company based on Knowledge Oasis Muscat (KOM) Karim has a serious interest in mobile gaming, the difference between male and female gamers and the gaming development process. He was a speaker at the two-day, 2005 Siemens-sponsored conference - and this is what he had to say.

1. Where’s mobile gaming headed?
The mobile games market will be over US$1 billion in 2005 and probably US$3 billion in 2006. The market’s getting closer to video games, this means simultaneous releases with the original game (game available on PS2, Xbox, Mobile..). It also means that the number of game versions will go on increasing, because of the technology fragmentation and lastly it means that the development time will dramatically increase because handsets are more and more powerful – for example, 3D capabilities and many different engines. UMTS (Universal Mobile Telecommunications System) networks will also bring a lot to connected games if it brings in terms of speed and time latency what it’s expected to bring and if there’s harmonization of multiplayer platforms.

2. What type of future has mobile gaming?
Does it have a future? It is the future. I don't think we've really seen any mobile games yet, I mean there are lots of games available for your phone, but they’re all cut down versions of games you see on your Playstation. In the not too distant future, we’ll start seeing games that simply couldn't exist on a Playstation or PC, games that use the phone's camera or are based on the physical location of you and your phone.

3. Is there a difference between the games played by youngsters and adults?
There are titles in the market that appeal to everyone from early teens to adults. Teenagers are of course very much in tune with the latest movies and music scene, and there are plenty of games and downloads based on these trends. Young adults are likely to enjoy the arcade classics, sports and action games, as well as puzzles and quizzes like The Weakest Link. A clearer segmentation is the male/female divide. Action, adventure, sports and arcade games are more likely to be played by boys and young men, whereas we’re seeing that puzzle, romance and quiz games appeal to a more evenly balanced male/female user base.

4. When the mobile gaming business kicks off in Oman, how will people pay for downloadable games?
In time - and judging from how things work elsewhere in the world - I imagine that the Oman-based tech savvy consumer will be given a wide choice of how to purchase Java games. They’ll probably be able to buy the games in a box from retail stores and pay up front; they’ll be able to buy them from mobile network operators and have the game charge added to their monthly bill; and they’ll be able to select them from a games page on a web portal or magazine and pay for them via premium rate phone line or SMS.

5. What’s involved in producing a mobile phone game?
The stages involved in developing a wireless game don't differ too much from those associated with PC and console development, but the work is compressed into a much shorter cycle - typically three months. One of the biggest challenges in developing games for wireless platforms is appreciating the techniques essential for writing compelling games on low memory embedded systems. This has implications for every stage of the development cycle from the reuse of early design art to the number of objects used in an engineer’s J2ME code. Of course, another issue that's unique to wireless gaming development is the number of ports a development team has to make of each title to deliver it to each carrier's portfolio of handsets. With games as small as 64K targeting such low memory phones you can often be looking at a significant rewrite to achieve a quality port.

6. Where’s the innovation in mobile gaming?
For wireless gaming the arrival of colour screens coupled with higher bandwidth speeds i.e. 2.5G, 3G and 4G has been a big market driver. As screen resolution improves, system memory increases and embedded processors get faster, the opportunities for enhancing the gaming experience and growing the market rise significantly. Handset manufactures recognise wireless gaming as a significant market and the form factor of many new handsets are being adapted for easier game play. On the local scene, we’ll see Oman-based telco operators making significant steps forward in attracting wireless gamers through the availability of new content services and higher data rates .

7. Tell us about KOM's e-Games Conference (
That’s fairly simple. In my mind, KOM's annual e-Games event is all about bringing together people from various parts of the World that love to make and play games so they can meet in person, form alliances and help each other. The 2005 event was the first of its kind in the Middle East so we were proud to be associated with the event and are really looking forward to the 2006 program.