As phones are becoming more and more feature-rich, mainly due to their enhanced hardware capabilities, mobile gaming is turning into a favorite past time for many people. There is little doubt that this trend will be accelerated with the launch of the Sony Ericsson Xperia PLAY, not to mention that the Tegra Zone platform is growing in popularity. With this in mind, and after spending considerable number of hours playing (and some more reviewing) with the Xperia PLAY, our thoughts brought us to the happy days of our childhood, and more specifically the many days we dedicated to play Snake and other mobile game classics. Parents didn't approve, but it was well worth it. That's why we decided it's time to follow mobile gaming's evolution - from its humble beginning to the days it's a billion dollar industry.
Of course, there were mobile games before Snake, but the true origin of mobile gaming can be traced back to a Nokia handset released in 1997. And whoever thought that the old-school classic Snake should be pre-loaded on the Nokia 6110, really pulled a masterstroke, because it sparked the beginning of a new era. Today we are spoiled by some high resolution graphics on our mobile devices, but Snake was nothing more but few (and we really mean few) black pixels moving on few green pixels. But that was before WAP broke into the scene - the next step in the mobile gaming evolution.
The WAP version of Space Wars
Early years and the N-Gage experiment:
The J2ME version of Space Invaders
Not only that, but in early 2003 Nokia decided to change the phone game with the announcement of the N-Gage - a mobile phone, which is also a handheld game system (sounds familiar, eh?). The Finnish giant, realizing that mobile gaming is turning into a gold mine, tried to take a crucial advantage in this field and launched this new type of phone in October 2003.
Taco style talking
Gaming-optimized phones, the N-Gage platform and the App Store revolution
Since its launch, the App Store has experienced unprecedented success
It was 2008 when the mobile landscape was dramatically altered by Apple. The original iPhone ushered a revolution in its own right, but it was the general concept for an ecosystem that played a pivotal role in changing the mobile world. The fact iOS is optimized for complex games is just one of its strong sides, but it's no coincidence that since its release, mobile gaming has flourished and evolved beyond recognition. Apple's Game Center is a good example of that - it presents iUsers with the chance to engage in battle with both friends and strangers, and there is a huge variety of games - stretching from board games to high-resolution action ones.
Moreover, Apple changed the business model for game purchasing. Ever since it was activated (July 11, 2008), the App Store allows customers to buy games (and other applications) from developers. This is a win-win situation for both consumers and app creators, because it takes carriers out of the app purchasing equation, and that profoundly changed the way apps (and thus - mobile games) are purchased - it made it easier for developers to publish their apps, and it made it easier for mobile users to buy them.
The Sony Ericsson Xperia PLAY and a glance to the future
There are multiple reasons why Nokia's N-Gage didn't cause a revolution in the phone industry, but one of them seems to be that this gaming-optimized phone was launched years ahead of its time. The same can be said about Vizzavi - a collaboration between Vodafone and Vivendi Universal that aimed to create something similar to Apple's App Store back in 2001. Similarly to the N-Gage, it failed spectacularly.
Our fingers pressing the Sony Ericsson Xperia PLAY's buttons - a dream has come true
It's hard to say. It will be some time before we know for sure whether the Sony Ericsson Xperia PLAY is a successful device or not. Either way, the general consensus is that gaming on smartphones is becoming an increasingly important issue for phone owners, and the recent launch of services such as NVIDIA's Tegra Zone only proves the validity of this point. All in all, only one thing seems certain - the future of mobile gaming is one very, very exciting prospect.