Why Hasn't Cellphone Gaming Taken Off?

Mobile gaming needs a “killer app” before it can really ever take off, but with a predicted $7 billion at stake, it’s just a matter of time until someone figures it out. The BBC bothered a bunch of mobile and gaming industry leaders to try to figure out why nobody has figured out how to successfully marry cellphones and video games, since previous predictions indicated that the industry should have already been worth $18 billion by now. (It’s currently worth $ 2 billion.) The main culprit? The cellphone industry changes too rapidly for companies to develop compelling games for it. So every year or two when you upgrade your cellphone or change carriers, you’re stunting the growth of mobile gaming. Shame on you.

Unlike console and PC games where hardware remains fairly static for years at a time (perhaps less true for PC games, but developers have gotten into the habit of designing games for the lowest common denominator—how else could I have run “Half-Life 2” a few years ago on a relatively underpowered PC?), cellphones change operating systems and internal circuitry seemingly every few months. The 3GSM cellphone trade show happened last month; CTIA, another such trade show, begins next week. Cellphones advance too quickly for their own good.

Another factor holding back the growth of mobile gaming is the perceived schism between hardcore and casual gamers. Hardcore gamers have no problem trying to beat “God of War” on God mode or sinking hundreds of hours into “World of Warcraft” trying to find the ultimate rare weapon. Casual gamers, on the other hand, only concern themselves with killing a few minutes while on the subway. Who do developers cater to?

So gaming on cellphones has quite a bit of work ahead of it before it truly catches on. We’ll be waiting right here for that day to come.

Mobiles set to play the game [BBC News]