Big Brands Don't Guarantee Game Success
By Carlo Longino, Fri Apr 22 18:15:00 GMT 2005

Casual gaming looks to be king of the mobile space, with big-name brands and console reformats generally losing out in sales.

Paying big bucks to get licensing rights for movie tie-in games doesn't look like the way to succeed, as a study of the top-selling mobile games in the UK for the 12 months up to February 2005 show only two that made it into any of the monthly top-ten charts. Reworks of console games enjoyed patchy sales, with some performing well, but others barely registering a tick.

Unsurprisingly, Tetris was the best-selling game, followed by Pac-Man and a pool game -- reinforcing the notion that casual gaming is the best fit for mobile, and also asserting that brands alone just aren't enough. A simple lesson, but one that many game developers haven't yet taken to heart.

Marcus Dyson in The Guardian says developers still have a lot of work to do, citing handset compatibility problems and development cycles that sometimes can't keep up with fast-moving consumer preferences in devices. Interestingly, he points out that mobile game buyers are predominantly male, which girls are the biggest consumers of ringtones and wallpapers. One developer's business development manager says "...obviously they are in tune with downloading content ... just the game subject matter seems not to appeal."

He also brings up the dreaded killer app argument, saying it's something the market "still awaits," adding that it won't be a console port, but something that engages the mobile phone as a communication device, incorporating cameras and network connectivity. While it's good to see a developer realizing the potential for immersive interactivity the mobile platform provides, this seems at odds with the success of casual games, based on simplicity and playability -- the formula for success of Tetris, which is pretty close to being mobile gaming's "killer app".