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A mobile game is a video game played on a mobile phone, smartphone, PDA or handheld computer.
Mobile games may be played using the communications technologies present in the device itself, such as by text message (SMS), multimedia message (MMS) or GPRS location identification. More common, however, are games that are downloaded to the mobile phone and played using a set of game technologies on the device.
Mobile games are usually downloaded via the mobile operator's radio network, but in some cases are also loaded into the mobile handsets when purchased, or via infrared connection, Bluetooth or memory card.
The different platforms
Mobile games are developed using platforms and technologies such as Windows Mobile, Palm OS, Symbian OS, Macromedia's Flash Lite, DoCoMo's DoJa, Sun's J2ME (Java 2 Micro Edition, recently rebranded simply "Java ME"), Qualcomm's BREW (Binary Runtime for Wireless) or Infusio's ExEn (Execution Environment). Other platforms are also available, but not as common.
Java was initially the most common platform for mobile games, however its performance limitations have led to the adoption of various native binary formats for more sophisticated games.
Common limitations of mobile games
Mobile games tend to be small in scope and often rely on good gameplay over flashy graphics, due to the lack of processing power of the client devices. One major problem for developers and publishers of mobile games is describing a game in such detail that it gives the customer enough information to make a purchasing decision. Currently, Mobile Games are mainly sold through Network Carriers / Operators portals and this means there are only a few lines of text and perhaps a screenshot of the game to excite the customer. Two strategies are followed by developers and publishers to combat this lack of purchasing information, firstly there is a reliance on powerful brands and licences that impart a suggestion of quality to the game such as Tomb Raider or Colin McRae and secondly there is the use of well known and established play patterns (game play mechanics that are instantly recognisable) such as Tetris, Space Invaders or Poker. Both these strategies are used to decrease the perceived level of risk that the customer feels when choosing a game to download from the carrier’s deck.
Recent innovations in mobile games include Singleplayer, Multiplayer and 3D graphics. Virtual love games belong to both of singleplayer and multiplayer games. Multiplayer games are quickly finding an audience, as developers take advantage of the ability to play against other people, a natural extension of the mobile phone’s connectivity. With the recent internet gambling boom various companies are taking advantage of the mobile market to attract customers, Ongame the founders of PokerRoom developed in 2005 a a working mobile version of its poker software available in both play money and real money. The player can play the game in a singleplayer or multiplayer mode for real or play money.
Mobile games on i-mode
Since the start of i-Mode in February 1999, the global development of mobile games has been pioneered and is driven by i-Mode games. DoCoMo was the first carrier globally to introduce Java to mobile phones and for games on mobile phones. Japan also was the first country to introduce color screens and 3D graphics for mobile phones, which are necessary for expansion of the mobile game market beyond very simple games. i-Mode allows to overcome many of the limitations mentioned above.
Games played on a mobile device using localization technology like GPS are called location-based games. These are not only played on mobile hardware but also integrate the player's position into the game concept. In other words: while it does not matter for a normal mobile game where exactly you are (play them anywhere at anytime), the player's coordinate and movement are main elements in a Location-based game. The most well-known example is the treasure hunt game Geocaching which can be played on any mobile device with integrated or external GPS receiver. External GPS receivers are usually connected via Bluetooth. More and more mobile phones with integrated GPS are expected to come.
Besides Geocaching, there exist several other location-based games which are rather in the stage of research prototypes than a commercial success.
Searching mobile games
It can be hard to determine what games are available for a specific handset. Even if the exact name of a game is known, users can spend hours trying to find it being sold in their country by their mobile operator. A group of enthusiasts has gathered thousands of games from websites all over the globe to put them into one independent searchable database called Mogmo search engine.
- Mobile software
- Mobile phone games (category)
- Handheld video game
- Multiplayer Mobile games
- Handheld electronic game
- Game manufacturers (category)
- Directory of mobile games websites