Cell Phones Got Game
ATLANTA -- What do Spiderman and the Sopranos have in common? Both are appearing soon on a cell phone near you, say service operators and the people who create games and entertainment for mobile devices.
Mobile games and entertainment are big business. SprintPCS and AT&T Wireless, for example, each offer at least 200 games to customers across their handset lines. Sony Pictures Mobile, meanwhile, says mobile customers have downloaded some 2.5 million copies of its most popular game, Wheel of Fortune. And, judging from announcements at the Cellular Telecommunications and Internet Association's trade show here this week, the mobile game and entertainment business is only getting bigger.
Leading the mobile gaming news here: The Mobie Awards, a new awards show honoring mobile games in several categories. The top overall winners included Gameloft's Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time in the lightweight category (executables under 256KB); Fathammer's Spy Hunter in the unlimited category (executables over 256KB); and IdeaWorks3D's Tony Hawk Pro Skater (best mobile game of 2003). The winners were chosen by the editors of Wireless Gaming Review and announced here this week.
Sony Pictures Mobile--the mobile entertainment development and distribution arm of Sony Pictures' digital entertainment division--is putting the finishing touches on three games based on Sony's upcoming Spider-Man 2. Initially, the games will be exclusive to Sprint; but about a month after the movie opens, other carriers will be able to offer the titles.
Sony Pictures Mobile has also announced its first two games that aren't based on content from its parent company. Snoop Dogg Boxing is a boxing game that uses Snoop Dogg's hit "Who Am I (What's My Name)?" as its soundtrack. NYT Word Challenge is a Bookworm-reminiscent word game produced in association with NYTimes.com, the New York Times Company's digital business unit.
Both titles are due for release in April for BREW- and Java-based cell phones.
More Word Play
Sony Pictures Mobile isn't the only company offering a game in partnership with the New York Times. Mobliss has launched NYT Crossword, which will give customers access to the same daily crossword puzzle published in the newspaper and online at NYTimes.com. The game will even allow players to save their puzzle in progress and resume work on it later.
Mobliss also announced a game based on the popular American Idol TV show. American Idol--The Wireless Game is actually two games in one: First you manage and train your own American Idol wannabe. Then, in American Idol U B the Judge, you evaluate contestants from the first part of the game. If you pick the winners, you get to be a top American Idol wireless judge. The game will be launched exclusively on AT&T Wireless.
In other gaming news, Jamdat--another major publisher of mobile games--has signed an agreement with Microsoft Game Studios. The company will publish wireless versions of three Xbox titles: Amped2, RalliSport Challenge 2, and Top Spin.
SprintPCS's CTIA announcements include an agreement with HBO to offer a range of content based on the hit cable series The Sopranos. The wireless offerings will include a ring tone based on the show's theme song ("Woke Up This Morning," by the British group Alabama 3). Also in the works are screen savers with the show's logo, images of the cast, episode previews, recaps, and schedules; and even a trivia game for Java-based phones.
In addition, SprintPCS announced an agreement with BMG (Bertelsmann AG's music group) to offer a series of ringers based on hits by the company's recording stars. Among the first participants are Britney Spears, Maroon 5, 3 Days Grace, The Strokes, Kenny Chesney, and Pink.
Hardware for Gamers
Recognizing the growing importance of games and entertainment in the wireless world, cell phone manufacturers are creating products optimized for games, such as Nokia's N-Gage. New at CTIA is Siemen's CX66, a handset with a little joystick instead of the usual navigation button, plus 11MB of memory.
And coming to a new generation of cell phones are graphics chips such as NVidia's GoForce 4000 and 3000. The chips are based on wireless media processor technology developed by MediaQ, a company NVidia acquired last year. These chips will support advanced gaming and other graphics capabilities on a new generation of cell phones. For example, the GoForce 4000 will have 640KB of integrated 64-bit SRAM, plus support for SD/SDIO cards, 640-by-480 displays, and 3-megapixel camera modules.
Motorola will use the GoForce 4000 in its third-generation cell phones, according to NVidia.
NVidia also announced that it has joined the Symbian Platinum Program. This deal means that GoForce processors will be compatible with the wide range of phones based on Symbian's operating system.