Mobile Games Insider: Licensed games will keep coming

Publishers still committed to buying in brands

Mobile Games Insider: Licensed games will keep coming

Our initial report from Tuesday's Mobile Games Insider highlighted the discussion by attendees on cross-platform gameplay, but the most contentious debate during the summit involved licensed content versus original games. While many proclaim originality and innovation as virtues of good mobile game publishing, few companies actually introduce completely original games.

Executives on hand at the conference were fiery in their rhetoric over the subject, illustrating the still embryonic identity of the mobile games industry as a growing medium.

Jamba CEO Lucy Hood outlined the case for licences. "When we look at publishing a title, it's about finding brands that work on mobile," she said.

Handsets aren't just another screen to slap cross-promotional content on; rather, they're a unique platform for unique content, Ms. Hood continued. "We have to create better content regardless of whether it's licensed or not."

Of course, figuring out what content is of high quality seems to be an issue with mobile games publishers, as a good majority of licence-based titles are poorly designed. When faced with criticism of a licensed game based off the film Mr. & Mrs. Smith, Ms. Hood replied, "It didn't capture the essence of the brand and didn't do anything unique for mobile, so it failed to work."

Many executives, including Ms. Hood, appear bullish in adapting brands from music, television, film, and other gaming platforms to mobile. Eric Berger, Vice President of Sony Pictures' Mobile Division backed Ms. Hood's argument. "We attempt to balance out portfolio of titles, but on the whole we use licences as a means to rope in gamers to play what are essentially original games," he said.

Mr. Berger described a project currently under development at Sony Pictures that taps into this strategy. "We're working on a James Bond game," he announced. "Although it's a big licence, it's also incredibly creative."

While most of the high-level figures shared in the branding love-in, the few developers in attendance had a notably different take on the matter. Oliver Miao, general manager of Centerscore under Vivendi Mobile, argued, "There's little room for innovation with brands taking over mobile." We'd suggest that Mr. Miao's point rings true in a marketplace filled with celebrity puzzlers, Snoop Dogg sports titles, and all manner of licensed fare that lower the quality of mobile games as a whole.

A definitive end to the debate over the superiority of licensed content versus original titles won't come anytime soon, of but at least the industry is exploring it through discussion. In the meantime, back to Paris Hilton's Diamond Quest.