The dust from Mobile World Congress hasn't settled yet, given that the show only finished yesterday. However, with the Pocket Gamer team having tirelessly wandered the showfloor and chatted with developers and publishers, we do have some early conclusions to draw. And we figured we'd share them:
Android attracts developers
Mobile game developers are genuinely enthusiastic about Google's Android platform, even though it's early days. However, publishers are taking a more wait-and-see approach, pointing out that until there are millions of Android handsets in people's hands, it won't be a big money-spinner for mobile games.
We're quite glad, though, that the first Android mobile game is a whack-a-mole clone, rather than Tetris or Snake.
Zeemote buzz building
The Zeemote Bluetooth mobile games controller is picking up more and more of a buzz as the weeks go by. It's partly because it just works, confounding any expectations of lag or fiddliness. But it's also because the company is working hard to court developers of all shapes and sizes.
Getting games like Tomb Raider Anniversary and Sonic The Hedgehog working with it is a smart move – now we're just waiting to see which handset maker Zeemote is teaming up with to get the device into gamers' hands.
Is My Hangman really the joint best mobile game in the world for 2007? The GSM Association's awards ceremony said it was, but even Glu's Jill Braff seemed puzzled that it was nominated when we interviewed her before the ceremony.
We like My Hangman, and certainly don't want to downplay the hard work its developers put into it. But it was a quixotic choice to say the least. Other than Glu and fellow winner Cellufun, the main beneficiary of the GSMA games award was the separate IMG Awards, which came out looking much more credible by comparison.
Metal Gear Solid Mobile, Treasure Arm, Furby Island, One, Dirk Dagger and the Fallen Idol and World Rally Championship 3D are all worth getting excited about, for different reasons. Perhaps next year, the people behind the two awards ceremonies can work a little more closely together (as much as is possible in such a situation, clearly).
3D flexing its muscles
Pocket Gamer's Jon Jordan visited various hardware firms' stands, and there's definitely a groundswell building behind 3D acceleration in handsets – just check his side-by-side comparison story for an example.
There's no doubting that hardware-accelerated phones kick arse (this is a technical industry term), so the question is how we'll get games that tap into their power, and how soon?
It has to be said, too, that several of the big chip/processor manufacturers were keener to talk about HD video this year than 3D gaming – previously their big showcase. Still, if it gets the hardware into more handsets, we can't complain.
On a less techy note, we can also report that 3D games where great big Gundam robots beat the bejaysus out of one another are marvellous fun.
Innovative controllers on the way
A mobile keypad isn't an ideal gaming controller. We put up with it, but that doesn't mean we have to like it. Zeemote (see above) was one of the firms attacking this problem at Mobile World Congress, while GestureTek was another, focusing on using the camera in your phone to control games.
Meanwhile, NTT DoCoMo had its GestureTek-powered Chokkan games on display, while developers were telling us about their desire to exploit the built-in accelerometers in the N95 and other handsets further. In short, people are focusing on cracking the control challenge. All power to them.
That said, we're still not convinced that strapping a GBA Advance knock-off onto a phone is the way forward.
The best mobile game pitch ever
"It's like Animal Crossing meets Harvest Moon, with Viva Piñata thrown in, too."
We'll be telling you more about this game in the coming weeks, as well as who's making it. Be excited.
More converts to ad-funded mobile gaming
There were two notable publishers talking about ad-funded games at Mobile World Congress. Disney announced its new mobile portal offering ad-funded versions of older games like Pirates of the Caribbean and Cars, while RealNetworks unveiled an ad-funded version of the excellent Playman Extreme Running, in partnership with Honda.
It seems like we'll soon reach a point where every publisher bar the Big Three (EA Mobile, Gameloft and Glu) is doing some form of ad-funded games, so it'll be interesting to see how that situation evolves during 2008 – and whether these ad-funded initiatives really do get more people downloading mobile games.
Attack of the touchscreens
Every mobile handset maker had a bunch of touchscreen phones on display at Mobile World Congress, while operators talked happily of their plans to push these handsets. However, games didn't appear to be a big factor – it's more about web browsing, user interfaces and music.
There was an entertaining spat between RealNetworks and Gameloft over who was the first publisher to support touchscreen handsets with games (we're staying well clear of this argument, given the difference between being the first to start developing, announce, and actually release such titles).
But it seems handset makers aren't pushing gaming as one of the key features of these touchscreen phones. Perhaps that'll change as the year goes on and more games come out.That's it for Mobile World Congress this year. Next week is GDC, so we've kept our bags packed and will report on the trends we spot there.