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N-Gage Revival And iPhone SDK Raise Anchor For Mobile Gaming

Posted by Jody Mitoma on February 7, 2008

mobile gaming sdk

Wired had a bit to say about accelerometers, and the iphone’s upcoming SDK yesterday evening. It’s a good write up, so I figured I’d share their post with you all.

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What do accelerometers, the iPhone SDK and touchscreens have in common? They’re the three big things that could see cellphone gaming have its first good year. Even the N-Gage revival finally took off on Monday, opening its doors to public testing after months of delay.

“A lot of people were inspired by what happened with the Nintendo Wii,” said Matthew Turetzky, RealNetworks’ vice president of non-PC gaming, when I spoke to him at a recent trade show. “But touchscreen is the big change, with the iPhone. It’s such a perfect technology for the casual gaming experience.”

The iPhone could see an explosion of authorized native game development later this month, when Apple releases an official software development kit. By then, thousands of owners of Nokia N81 phones will be playing a limited selection of N-Gage titles on their high-end handsets.

Touchscreens are the hot technology in cellphones, and will see attention from game developers, especially as they become standard-issue features on new models.RealNetworks is one company aiming to make a go of cellphone gaming. Though none take advantage of the new technologies, each sees it moving hugely-successful PC games to the mobile. Recent titles include Luxor 2, the sequel to a puzzle game downloaded 60 million times; MTV Cribs, a rhythm title that puts Hip Hop into the hook; and Collapse Chaos, a mobile entry in another popular franchise.”Accelerometers will remain nichey,” Turetzky predicted. “Touch will be the next big thing, and we can incorporate that technology quickly.”Ulf Wretling, a general manager at Sony Ericsson, sees things differently.”We’ve been looking into accelerometers for some time,” Wretling told us late last year. “We’ve talked to all the game developers and asked them, ‘What can you develop with this?'”Sony-Ericsson’s accelerometer-equipped K850 ($500), and the similar K910 model, both include a modern version of Atari’s classic Marble Madness, controlled by tilting the handset itself. Accessible to Java developers as a standard programmable system feature, the accelerometer is easily integrated into games and other software.While motion sensing of one kind or another is the hot technology, advanced mobile gaming also requires number-crunching chips that can output fast, console-like graphics. Phones containing powerful processors like AMD’s Imageon 2300 series are now widely available: among them are the AT&T Tilt and HTC’s Touch.

More and more titles are available, created using cross-platform tools like Java, which can be hooked up to the 3D hardware with the OpenGL programming interface.

Mobile chipset maker Qualcomm is using phone games to help pitch its own Java-like programming interface, named BREW.

“The technology, it’s already here,” said Qualcomm spokesperson Anita Hix, though she said she expects advanced visuals to put to mundane purposes like navigation before they take off in mobile gaming.

Some of the most hyped new games are being produced for Nokia’s Series 60 handsets. The N-Gage brand, almost ready to be relaunched, promises Nintendo DS-like 3D visuals and top licenses such as FIFA Soccer and Call of Duty. A public beta of the service opened on Monday.

The original N-Gage was a much-derided Nokia gaming phone launched in October, 2003. Now, however, things are different: the sticker goes on a while range of high-end Nokias, including the N73, N95, N81 and the N93.

“Games run natively, and because of that, they’re very visually stunning,” said Nokia’s Sally Vedros.

Almost 20 titles are expected for launch, costing between $10-$15. All will be hooked up to an online community, with in-game friends lists and, where appropriate, multiplayer competition.

People who already own N-Gage-compatible handsets can download firmware updates to get their game on without forking out for new hardware.

Though there’s a tendency to make mobile games compatible with even the most low-end phones, higher-powered mobile gaming is becoming more popular. Verizon wireless reports that mobile gaming revenues increased 38 percent in the first three quarters of 2007, compared to the same period last year. Motorola’s Stephen McDonnell said in one interview that he hopes to see the likes of Amazon and Google help spearhead take-up by offering mobile games for sale.

Nonetheless, other companies take a low-tech approach that runs on any old phone. GestureTek is pushing a mobile “gesture control technology” that works on millions on handsets already in Americans’ pockets.

“It’s deliverable over the air,” says Adam Schlegel, GestureTek’s lead developer. “We can target the millions of handsets which are already there. We don’t need an accelerometer.”

Named the “EyeMobile Engine,” GestureTek offers shake, rock and roll using software alone. It operates on the same principle as an optical mouse, but tracks what the phone’s camera sees instead of a sensor.

GestureTek game titles include a slalom game featuring the Crash Bandicoot stable of characters, and a bowling game that requires the same realistic swoop of the arm as Nintendo’s own version. The gesture system can also be used for less entertaining phone functions, like answering calls or changing the volume.

Other mobile gaming schemes announced recently include Sprint Arcade, the carrier’s $10-a-game download service, MySpace’s gaming channel, and Vollee, a gaming startup that plans to augment cellphones with processing power from their own servers, the results being delivered in real-time using high-speed 3G networks.

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Can’t wait to see what other kind of games these companies and other freelance programmers come up with! 🙂

(Source: A Wired Story)

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3 Responses to “N-Gage Revival And iPhone SDK Raise Anchor For Mobile Gaming”

  1. I found your site on technorati and read a few of your other posts. Keep up the good work. I just added your RSS feed to my Google News Reader. Looking forward to reading more from you.

    Tom Stanley

  2. Thanks a lot Tom. 🙂

  3. I like the layout of your blog and I’m going to do the same thing for mine. Do you have any tips? Please PM ME on yahoo @ AmandaLovesYou702

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