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French Version

Mobile gaming for the masses

Portable game gadgets are making a comeback, not that they ever disappeared, but they went out of fashion for a while after the Game and Watch revolution of the early 80s.

Ten years later, in the early 90s, the Nintendo Gameboy opened up the world of hand held gaming again, as people all over, of all ages, became Tetris addicts and there has been steady growth in this industry since then.

However, in spite of products from Atari and Sega in the past decade, the GameBoy still rules supreme; now in full color, with stereo sound and rivaling any advanced games console, especially with the GameBoy Advance and GameBoy SP models.

A new twist in the handheld market, though, could seriously challenge the GameBoy. It will come from mobile telephone companies who already include neat, yet graphically unsophisticated, games in their hand sets. These ‘tiny’ games have created a whole new market of ‘mobile gamers’, many of whom are asking for more. What’s exciting is that these new gamers are of all age groups, young and old, and of both sexes; which creates a unique base of gamers that differs from the typical PC or PlayStation gamer profile, as most of those are young males.

Accordingly, Nokia is launching its new N-Gage model, which is a mobile phone that also doubles as an advanced hand-held games machine. The idea is that you won’t need to carry a mobile phone and a handheld game unit. So, you get the best of both worlds in one device? Add MP3 playing capabilities, all that the price of $300 and you’ve got a serious threat to Nintendo.

You can expect that Ericcsson, Nokia’s main competitor, is not far behind as are Samsung and other major mobile producers.

Sony, who already dominates the home console business with the PlayStation 2, wants a slice of this exciting new market. The company plans to launch a device called the Sony PSP (PlayStation Portable), which will probably include many new ideas as you would expect from Sony. It will come with a 4.5 inch color screen, utilizing 1.8GB, 60mm optical disc-cartridges and provide gamers with around two hours of battery life. Sony are calling it the 21st century Walkman, as they try to capture the revolutionary effect that the Walkman had on consumer electronics.

To counter the threat from ‘mobile-phone-game devices’, Sony will include ‘networking capabilities, which would enable applications like online and network gaming and, probably, voice communications.

A couple of tricks, which a mobile phone can’t do, will also be included. Sony’s PSP will come with a USB camera which will support videoconferencing, live special effects and a host of other uses.

So, at the moment, there are plans by many players that could change the face of the portable gaming industry. Ultimately, the simplest ideas could be prove to be the most successful. While everyone expects that game players on-the-move want to play a hand-held version of Grand Theft Auto or FIFA, we might end up finding out that a simple game of Snake is all the average person needs to be entertained for a few minutes.

For companies like Nintendo, Sony, Nokia and others, that would be the absolute anti-climax! e-mail: zeid@arabia.com

Zeid Nasser
The Star

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