Amy Jo Kim, a game designer for Shufflebrain, agrees that the lack of standards is a major problem in the United States. Countries like Japan, she says, are “further along” in terms of game development because there are fewer carriers and handsets, which means fewer compatibility issues. But she doesn’t think that U.S. service providers are motivated to adopt a generic platform. “It’s the same reason that Toyota and Honda have the controls in different places,” she says. “They want to lock you into the way they do things.”
Kim will talk about the porting problem and the future of mobile gaming at the Game Developers Conference today. Some companies, she says, like to push the envelope and then struggle to make their games work on various devices. Shufflebrain, however, sees value in games that reside on a network (instead of being downloaded to a handset) and take advantage of features common to all kinds of devices. A user might start playing the game on her home computer and access it later with her mobile phone, using some aspect of the phone system that is fairly ubiquitous. The California company is currently working on a game that uses SMS, for example. The Short Messaging Service, used to send text, is found on most mobile phones.
Ariganello notes that despite the porting problem, there are still lots of new games being made: “Last month we had about 60 submissions.” He will be seeing even more game ideas as a judge of the Mobile Game Innovation Hunt today at the Game Developers Conference.