Mobile gaming indeed has come a long way since 1997 when Nokia embedded the game Snake in their phones. For mobile gaming to reach a broad audience in the U.S., developers would have to wait for more advanced technology to leak into the infrastructures of the mobile industry. As Mia Consalvo brings to attention in her piece “Slingshot to Victory”, early post 2002 games were just the start of an evolution away from the previous single-player games that were preloaded onto mobile phones like Tetris and Snake. Games could now be downloaded onto the users phone but this also meant the user would have to cough up some dough for airtime of the download. Further, developers began to face difficulties in negotiating technological standards as devises varied, as well as working out payment options for each mobile company. (Consalvo, p. 188) Eventually, the explosion of smart phones happened and the iPhone and iPod Touch made a splash on the scene. By 2008, consumers could tap into a humongous Apps Store created by Apple and begin downloading trying out various games. With relatively flat data fees and games becoming cheaper from popularity, developers were finally able to reach a broad audience for mobile games. Thus the iPhone became a platform for mobile gaming, and one of its game changers was Angry Birds. The developer, Rovio, was still able to achieve success even though they offered a free, but limited, and full version of the game. I agree with Consalvo’s argument that “price isn’t their only concern – a game must be “good” in some way to succeed – and what makes a mobile game good is quite different from traditional console games” (p. 190). Angry Birds is simple in nature, of course not as simple as the pre 2002 games, but still easy enough for any user to pick up and play whenever they please.
This new landscape creates a nice relationship between mobile game developers and consumers. Now developers can employ techniques similar to those of Rovio for platforms like smart phones and tablets and also become successful. Other formats were showing positive feedback too – “Launched in early 2006, Mobagetown…is a mobile-only community game site that signed up 2 million members within 9 months of operation in Japan” (Chan p. 18). From his piece “Convergence, Connectivity, and the Case of Japanese Mobile Gaming”, Dean Chan asks how the cultural economy of convergence operates within the world of Japanese mobile gaming. In his finding comes the game Mogi which mobile and PC gaming converges to “create a community of high-tech hunter-gathers whose activity is set in an economy based on the bartering of virtual objects and a sociability based on text messaging” (p. 20). Though Chan determines a puzzling layer of complexity between how the players use their physical location and virtual knowledge, he does expose an interesting facet of convergence. The combination of gaming and social networking is what made Mobagetown strong. The familiar mainstream framework of the social aspect gave the user a more for your money feel. Related to this idea is a mobile game company called Slightly Social, developed by Canadian Brad Mills. His goal was to generate a creative workspace where the developers could make games that tie a social network like Facebook to mobile games. It would be interesting to see if his company did anything as similar as Mogi, where PC and mobile worked in unison and played different roles.
The U.S. and Japan, as well as many other countries, should consider themselves lucky for the advancements technology has brought to mobile gaming. Though developers may have had a rough start catering to a broad audience, they’re struggles were probably minimal in comparison with India’s gaming industry. Their gaming culture is different from the United States’ in that theirs didn’t stem from a “hacker Culture”. As Dr. Adrienne Shaw discovers, some companies in India fund their individual projects from the money they receive from programming videogames for American and Japanese companies. Still though, these companies have a hard time competing in the global market and a lack of development of original titles results in no real independent game development culture in India. Shaw argues though, that mobile phone are “cheaper, smaller, and more widely used than PC’s”, which are more valuable than strictly gaming devices. (Shaw p. 189). The success of the Nokia N-Gage, which was a flop to the rest of the world, made industry reps “focus on developing mobile and social networking games (accessible on phones)” (p. 189). The joy for developers is how easy the games are to make and distribute in comparison to console and PC games. Aside from the seemingly never ending road blocks the Indian gaming industry sees, I agree with an argument that Shaw concludes with. She argues, “The lack of a clearly conceptualized market and game culture, for example, may in fact be a great benefit to game development in India. I find it fascinating too that the limitlessness in a construction of India’s gaming audience can translate to their gaming industry existing in a different realm than most traditional models of marketing.
With technology on the rise in the early 2000s, it became evident that for a mobile game developer to make a difference and reach a broad audience they had to take certain things into consideration. Two of the most important being simplicity and convergence with a social network. The “combination of gaming and social networking is likely to become increasingly vital for mobile gaming, especially given how social networking systems are becoming more prolific” (Chan p. 18). As the Indian gaming industry develops, other countries might learn a thing or two about how to divide a market in better ways than demographics do.