August 19, 2008
| by Adam Dioria
Don’t believe everything you read. Contrary to widespread belief, today’s cell phone games are, in actuality, fast approaching handheld console-level quality, complete with 3D visuals, vibrating feedback and touch-/motion-powered user interfaces.
Helping further underscore the inaccuracy of historical stereotypes (i.e. oversimplified play, migraine-inducing visuals and counter-intuitive control schemes), publishers like Hands-On, I-play and Hudson Entertainment are rapidly making huge technological strides. With the advent of the iPhone 3G’s App Store and its piddling $99 development entry fee, both traditional game manufacturers (EA, Sega, Namco) and scrappy start-ups like ngmoco are fast getting in on the action as well. Venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caulfield and Byers even announced the formation of a $100 million iFund in March meant to capitalize firms that focus on publishing content for the latter platform.
Suffice it to say the software industry is abuzz with talk of a portable gaming renaissance, given that the business of mobile entertainment is expected to be worth $47.5 billion by 2010, according to Jupiter Research. But the truest sign of the sector’s increasing maturity? Public co-signings by respected game makers like John Carmack (Doom) and Will Wright (The Sims), each of whom is actively contributing to handset gaming’s growth with ambitious offerings like Orcs & Elves and Spore, respectively.
Keep in mind that cellular phones are actually the world’s most prevalent platform for interactive entertainment – 1.2 billion handsets are expected to sell in 2008 alone. The pastime further enjoys near ubiquity in Japan and Europe to boot, with a wide array of massively-multiplayer and social networking-inspired diversions taking advantage of mobile equipment’s ever-increasing processing power, visual quality, broadband access speeds and screen size specifications. Regardless, the irony here is manifold.
To begin with, most Americans still couldn’t tell you how to purchase a title for their RAZR or Instinct if their life depended on it. (Check your handset’s menu for options like “Get Fun & Games” or “Entertainment,” which link to online storefronts offering instantly-retrievable gems for under $5-10, or hit publishers’ websites to snag SMS download links.) Likewise, publishers’ advertising options are often limited to 150 characters – not words – or less, and buyable titles presented in simple textual lists, meaning the vast array of content has to, by necessity, be based on common cultural tropes or instantly-recognizable brands. Title quality also varies wildly across the board, with no guarantees made as to one’s ultimate enjoyment. Worse, precious few online resources (wireless.ign.com and pocketgamer.co.uk being top options) allow prospective shoppers to do advance research.
Still, if you haven’t jumped on the bandwagon yet, you’re definitely missing out. Here are 10 good reasons to drop that DS and put the PSP down for a while. Because, hey, while competing, dedicated handheld gaming systems may have their upsides, they’re light years less easy to play one-handed while shouldering a screaming baby and sitting on a bouncing bus…