The state of the mobile games industry 2008

Tricia Duryee
is with and I had the pleasure of meeting her at a Glu press event in San Francisco. In any case, she interviewed Gonzague de Vallois of Gameloft about the state of mobile gaming and he had some interesting things to say.

Back when QuicklyBored first started, we were 100% mobile gaming. The industry was in a terrible state. The industry was bogged down with heavy royalty payments, inefficient distribution and seemingly never ending porting.

This is starting to change.
The industry is now blessed with perfect distribution models such as the iPhone App Store, as well as innovative technologies such as Google’s Android. On top of that, there are platforms such as N-Gage which are developing graphically intense games to match the high power hardware they’re putting out.

Gonzague de Vallois’ company has seen a big turn-around in profits due to their success on the iPhone. One of the first benefits of the iPhone that Gameloft highlights, is its hardware. The iPhone’s hardware, although I personally believe it isn’t a huge factor in determining the state of the mobile gaming industry, is still setting the bar for what consumers demand incredibly high.

“What we think Apple has brought in recent months is innovation on two dimensions. The first is innovation in the gaming experience. The iPhone’a touch platform, the accelerometer and its powerful OS, are really enhancing the gaming experience. It’s as powerful as a [Sony] PSP or [Nintendo] DS, so it’s a step forward compared to what we’ve had to work with.”

The single biggest issue surrounding the mobile gaming industry has always been distribution. As early as 4 years ago, carriers were the only way people understood how to download mobile games. The games were listed on the carrier deck and browsing was a nightmare. You only had the game’s title to know whether or not it was a good game, and therefore titles such as Tetris were consistently at the top of the best sellers list. With the invention of the iPhone, carriers are now completely cut out of the purchase process. Consumers can now try a wide variety of mobile games and before purchasing a game, they can look at screenshots and reviews right from their phone. It was in essence, the end of the “Walled Garden”.

It’s 100 times better to make it simple. In terms of richness and depth, you really jump from the early 80s to 2008. The other is on the distribution side. The App Store is an open platform. They have editorial choice, and Apple features games and applications that they think demonstrate the power of the platform, and there’s a user rating system, which allows users to highlight games they played and liked or disliked, so it’s a good ecosystem with a fair business model. It allows us to invest in the innovation of the games. It’s one device, one platform, and one store worldwide. When we launched Guitar Rock Tour Guitar Hero 2, it launched in one day in all the countries where the App Store is. It’s one single game, and one single piece of software. That’s much different than the 1,200 handsets we typically have to support across hundreds of carriers.

Where might the industry go from here? We’re going to see a lot of companies copying Apple. We can be sure of that. We’re going to see more touch screens, embedded stores (RIM) and more creative unique IP mobile games making headlines. Exciting times folks!



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