No prizes for playing games with Bluetooth?
Substituting micro-moments of boredom
What makes someone spend money playing a game on a mobile phone, when a PC or home game console brings a more intense audiovisual experience, asks Bloor Research analyst Rob Bamforth. Probably, they are similar reasons to spend money on any type of mobile applications. Here are the six reasons I consider:
- Utility - Does it have practical value?
- Worth - Is its pricing a fair match for the value?
- Simplicity - Is it simple to find, buy and use?
- Substitution - What activity does it replace or augment?
- Community - Does it exploit social interaction?
- Mobility - Does it enhance the user's mobility?
The first three are pretty straightforward, and to be honest, should be applied to all applications of technology, mobile or otherwise. If they can be, and the product is well marketed, then there is a fair chance of success. Mobile applications tap into a slightly different vein, as typically they are in addition to something we have somewhere else - on our desks or connected to a TV in a living room or den. For mobile phone applications, the effects of substitution, community and overall mobility are vital if they are to be incremental purchases.
So why mobile games? Many reasons. Younger developers are exploiting new technologies they already understand. The audience is wide, willing to try anything, but fashion is fickle and unwilling to stick with something that's poor. Games and entertainment often push the barriers for technology and performance. Do you really need a Pentium 4 for a word processor? Not as much as you need it for rendering 3-D shoot-em-ups.
Some features are making the move from console to phone. Some phones make use of the ring alert vibration to give a little 'shock' feedback to the game player. This is not quite the same intensity as a games console, but it adds to the effect. Polyphonic sound for ring tones has also positive side effects for game authors and therefore players.
Macrospace, a UK based mobile games developer, has recently announced its new game, "Fatal Force: Earth Assault" with some multi-player game features making use of Bluetooth. As a novel feature, players can join forces in a co-operative mode with nearby friends who are using a compatible handset, or play against each other in the more familiar last one standing wins style. Just maybe, like much of the mobile industry, they will all achieve their goals more easily if they work together, rather than go for solo glory?
This game also allows players to create their own gaming leagues, share scores with fellow players around the world and participate in a global ranking system for the best player. But will this generate more income for operators and the other players of the ecosystem? After all, Bluetooth traffic is free.
Ultimately it will depend on substitution, community and mobility. Text messaging took off because it substituted a phone call which saved time and money, it brought communities of friends in closer contact, even if sometimes the messages are shared by showing those nearby your mobile's screen, and the instant nature of messages to the pocket enhances the user's mobility. Operator portals took off when they substituted general browsing, created a community feel, and made information more accessible on the move, and dropped the emphasis on WAP technology and price per kilobyte.
Mobile gaming substitutes micro-moments of boredom for entertainment; you don't need to be wired to a console and TV and now you can be part of a wider community. Local communications is a useful addition to the gaming experience, if not directly to the operators' coffers. However, they should realise that mobile data applications of all types will have a greater impact on the bottom line if they foster all aspects of substitution, community and mobility rather than just price and raw technology.
Next step, MMS and picture messaging?