MoMo – Graphics and Games

I went to Mobile Monday again this week. This time the theme was graphics, ui and gaming.

One of the big themes that came out of this was that the increasingly powerful graphics capability of mobile handsets means that we can experience a user interface (or game) as rich as we are used to on a computer (or console, or even set-top box). I’ve binned phones before for having a really sucky UI, so this is music to my ears. Motorola had Henrietta Wendt over showing off the new banana-phone (rizr) – that has a nice UI. Well done Motorola, you’re off the black list…

Some interesting factoids:

– Symbian has 73% of the global smartphone market; outside of the US, they truly dominate
– mobile games written for the native os of a handset perform 3-10 times better than java games
– a high-end mobile handset has more powerful graphics capability than a Nintendo DS and not much less than a Sony PSP
– to end on a low note… the #1 mobile game download in the UK on Monday was Deal or no Deal

One of the interesting points that two of the speakers touched on was that if we can get the enablers right for gaming (revenue-generating and therefore directly rewarded) we end up getting the enablers right for all the other types of multimedia, including rich UI’s (harder to figure out the effects on revenue). I was surprised that one speaker was putting forward an argument for a good UI – maybe it’s my end-user perspective, but I would have thought it to be an obviously desirable feature. Either way, some of the UI concept videos we saw (by The Astonishing Tribe) were very cool, and really showed that with some smart use of layering and transparency, you can create an experience that is intuitive and beautiful. Let’s not forget that a good-looking phone sells in the playground.

The experience of discovering, downloading and paying for mobile games came under fire. In fact, improving this experience could be the next big thing over the next 1-2 years. Motorola are doing an online store, which is reminiscent of the Playstation 3 store (although that experience kinda sucks), so that’s definitely a step in the right direction. The idea here is to surface games and feature games in a more effective way – a big improvement over a list.

We saw some demos at the end, but they weren’t that interesting from my point of view. The coolest thing I saw was a development environment that allows you to write a game binary once and then package it up for various different handsets and OS’s. Cross-platform, baby. See the post about the momolondon on mobile widgets to see what I think about that.

If the speakers’ presentations get posted, I’ll put the link up here. A quick roundup:

Henrietta Wendt (BizDev @ Motorola) speaking on Symbian and UIQ handsets
Tim Closs (CTO, Ideaworks 3D) speaking on native mobile gaming
Steve Townsend (Founder, Great Ape Software) speaking on writing a mobile game
Oscar Clark (Nvidia) speaking on evolving the cellphone into a personal computer
Bill Pinnell (Symbian) speaking on graphics for advanced UI’s