As a great insight into the future of mobile gaming as seen by one of the current leading firms in the field at the moment, during his opening mobile keynote at the recent Develop conference at Brighton, UK, Nokia’s Aki Jarvilehto has predicted that the mobile market will be worth €4.2 by 2011 – with part of that growth driven by new games developed with 'disruptive technology' such as GPS and high-quality production values in mind.
He explained that the market had started to move beyond a world where the user-experience for discovering games, and the frustrating way developers have to produce SKUs for thousands of handsets, was “on par with getting punched in the face” and instead developers and publishers are now able to invest in the more innovative technologies available in new handsets. “Publishers are moving into [high quality mobile content investment],” he said, adding that perceptions in the industry were changing towards valuing better production values in games. At the same time, the opportunities for developers to self-publish their games on mobile devices were on the rise. “For you as a developer this means now is the right time to ask ‘how do I innovate?’”.
Before delving into the technologies that developers can innovate with, however, he added that those making mobile games should be aware that innovation works best when it satisfies consumer needs. “Innovation is a dirty word that gets overused often. I dislike innovation for innovation’s sake. It’s too easy to chase that next new feature. The guiding beacon for innovation should always be the consumer. When you are looking to take these technologies into use you stay focused on the consumer,” he said.
Jarvilehto then presented Nokia’s view on the market for mobile games, profiling six key demographics (quotes are examples of how each demographic would describe its playing habits. The segments are: Core Gamer (‘playing is part of my identity and I want to play and compete with others’), Web 2.0 (‘I want games which let me interact and communicate with my friends and other people’), personal development (‘I would play games that make me a better person’), casual gamer (‘I want to be entertained while I have a break or nothing else to do’), feminine games (‘I want to be entertained on my own terms) local content (‘I want to play games which resonate with my cultural background and are familiar to me’).
Jarvilehto added that there are “disruptive technologies which we have available” to satisfy these consumers. He also pointed to four Nokia products – cross-platform core gamer game Reset Generation, episodic camera game Dirk Dagger, user-generated content title Yamake and virtual pet Creebies – as examples that these innovations were possible. These games took advantage of some of the “hot technologies” which were or will soon be available in a variety of handsets – and not just Nokia ones.
CPU performance and memory on devices is improving such that it will soon be “taken for granted”, he said, adding that “game changing” 3D acceleration is on the rise and also makes TV-out more relevant in devices. Javilehto added that, in developing countries, “consumers will have their first high-end games experience via a portable device plugged into a TV”. Touchscreen is also something “[Nokia is] going to support at all prices points”, he said, adding that the same is true of accelerometers, possibly even magnetometers, and cross-platform functions “which will be shipping in most of our devices”.
But it was GPS he said offered the most immediate potential for mainstream innovation. “Nokia is taking GPS mainstream in a significant way,” he said, describing his company’s push behind this technology was on par with the way it pushed forward camera phones. Specifically, he said that GPS – married with the other new technologies – presented an opportunity for “super exciting” mixed reality games which drew from content in the real world, such as maps, to inform in-game content. “We’re looking into concepts that generate content from the city maps we have available. We’re finding ways of making gameplay relevant,” he said, saying such data could be used in a racing game, for instance, to drive a player’s emotional involvement in their game.