UK Mobile Scene Update

Our newfound UK correspondent, Mod, is back to give you lovely readers an idea of what’s going down in fair Britannia. This time, Mod discusses the British perception of mobile gaming and what’s holding the UK industry back. So show the man some respect, because he’s mates with Ali G and Tony Blair (just kidding: nobody likes Tony Blair).

Britain. Home of the crumpet, the queen, crappy weather, fish and chips, Coldplay, pikeys and a slightly substandard police force. It’s also a place where two thirds of the population own and absolutely revere mobile phones. On the street, you can plainly see the odd passer-by chatting away to some worrying relative or the juvenile adolescent steadily bopping his head to some piece of rubbish music on their cell. It’s all in the mix over here; mobiles have slowly become the ultimate fashion accessory, thanks to their ever-changing looks, and also their ability to double as personal organisers, web browsers, music players and cameras to boot. All well and good, right? Well, yes, but unfortunately, there’s one small mobile market which is turning out to be quite bland: the digital jungle of mobile gaming.

There are a few reasons why the prospect of playing games on the move without the need for a conventional handheld hasn’t become very appealing here. It’s definitely not a problem regarding the phones themselves. We have kick-ass little numbers over here - 2 mega pixel cameras, 3D game engines, PDA’s, Bluetooth, MP3; you name it, we’ve got it. Neither is it a problem of a shortage of game distributors - we have about 30 different mobile content companies operating in the UK, all glad to offer services like ringtones, games and graphics (albeit with the addition of unreadable small print which will proceed to milk you of what little credit you have left on your phone). First and foremost is the fact that we Britons consider ourselves too bloody busy to play on our phones. The only chance I personally get is a little round of Bomberman on the train - any other mobile gaming is considered a waste of time unless you’re using a DS/PSP. Also of note is the fact that most games are not easily accessible, and therefore widely unknown. Unlike mobiles themselves, mobile games are not advertised on every available billboard, and so you will find with some people in the UK (London at least) that the only mobile game they are familiar with is Snake. So, we have a problem with target audience. The majority of people with high end mobiles are either high flying business suits who don’t really care, or mentally challenged criminal teenagers who are too busy stealing them to play on them. Only a small fraction of people here are regular mobile gamers - mostly kids with a lot of time on their hands.

Another problem is with the games themselves. One of the first games out over here was an absolutely abysmal number where you had to break blocks to uncover a picture of some scantily clad chick (doesn’t sound so bad, ed.). With games like this, my guess is that Britons lost hope in their small-screened companion. We’re also deprived of some great games released for mobiles in North America, for example Kingdom Hearts, Musashi and the like. Chances are also dim for the release of Japanese mobile games in the UK. Finally, there is a growing assumption over here that mobiles cannot be identified as a games platform, because phones are not devices predominantly used for gaming. I spit on that particular opinion.

So, to conclude, the mobile gaming industry in the UK is alive-albeit a bit ill. Perhaps in a few years, when mobile games really begin to mimic the quality of the console greats, people will look at their phones differently. In the meantime, the small fragment of the population who are familiar with them will have to get by with the games already available. Farewell, my friends Jewel Quest awaits.

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