Can mobile players mobilize gaming?
And now for the science bit, as Nokia, Square-Enix and others unite to make mobile gaming better
Generally we avoid techie talk on Pocket Gamer. It's games that most gamers care about, not the technology behind them.
But just as we recently gave you a beginner's guide to the various different mobile platforms such as Java and BREW, we think it's worth checking in now and then on how companies are trying to make mobile gaming less painful – such as the latest news about the Open Gaming Specification, which has just announced support from the likes of Nokia and Square-Enix.
Anyone who has downloaded more than a couple of mobile games knows the main problems: glitches when your new game runs on your handset, games that don't run at all, games that never arrive despite you paying for them, and games that look totally different to what you expected to see from the screenshots, because they showed a game running on a fancier phone made yesterday, and you dared to buy your phone six months ago.
If it's any consolation, it's tough for the mobile games industry too (and for Pocket Gamer reviewers, for that matter). Because all the handsets are different, game developers have to make up to 200 or more versions in order to get on a phone operator's games portal, which is expensive and time-consuming.
It also holds back mobile game design, since most of the sweat and effort goes into remaking games instead of designing new, better ones.
An answer could be the Open Mobile Specification, which is being put together by a group of mega-companies with a vested interest in making mobile gaming work. And today we learned that other companies involved in this noble endeavour include Samsung, SK Telecom, Symbian, Tao Group, and Texas Instruments.
The aim is to create an agreed set of hardware specifications that everyone making premium-quality games can aim for, and so cut down the time spent reworking games for different handsets, or at least make it easier.
In the first instance, the specification will essentially be a set of minimum device capabilities and measurable performance characteristics that game publishers and developers can rely upon (screens size, processing power and so on). This should make improve games portability from one mobile handset to another, and so boost the time that better developers can put into improving gameplay and graphics in their newer titles.
The companies certainly have every incentive to get it right. There are more than a billion mobile phones in the world today and games tend to cut across cultures and nations, so mass-market mobile gaming could mean megabucks for those making the games.
We'd like to end with a snappy and visionary quote from one of the companies involved.
But we can't, because as we warned you this is a techie interlude on Pocket Gamer, and techies tend not to be too snappy.
Instead, we'll have to leave you with these words from Texas Instruments' Kevin Mowry, chairman of the working group that's putting together the standards: "Developing specifications under the OMA Game Services Working Group is a natural move that allows participating companies to rapidly develop the specifications needed to enable a richer, more consistent mobile gaming experience for consumers."
Had enough now? We agree, and suggest you offer the Group all the best, then go on and browse some of our reviews of the very best mobile games already out there.