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Старый 25.11.2004, 20:36
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По умолчанию WGamer Article: Vodafone's 3G Launch

Games czar Tim Harrison gives us answers

Posted: Wednesday, 17 November 2004 by Steve Palley
As the world's largest mobile carrier, Vodafone's capacity for making dramatic statements and sweeping business maneuvers is now more expected than it is surprising. The multinational's aggressive partnering strategy has allowed it to push into markets from Kuwait and Japan to Malta, propagating forward-thinking mobile services like Vodafone live! and pay-as-you-go plans wherever the red teardrop has spread. Now that it has expanded into a sizable percentage of the world's arable land mass, Vodafone's aiming its next quantum leap in a different direction: boosting marginal revenue and encouraging new subscriptions with next-generation mobile data services. Vodafone live! with 3G, which Vodafone unveiled last week in 13 countries in Europe and Asia, features a set of capabilities that will have almost any mobile consumer drooling--or so the company hopes. Vodafone live! with 3G's greatly improved network bandwidth and 10 flashy new handsets will enable many content improvements: streaming video, made-for-mobile video and audio content (including a special mobile version of the hit Fox show 24), video calling, and--most importantly, to our way of thinking--awesome new 3D games.

In a recent telephone interview, Tim Harrison, head of games for Vodafone Group Services, told WGR that advanced mobile gaming was going to be a vital piece of the 3G puzzle. "Vodafone live! with 3G is going to be an entire suite of services that will make up the overall proposition. 3D games are at the forefront of the proposition, even though not all of our launch handsets support 3D gaming." Regardless of what fraction of the 10 3G handsets support 3D graphics (upon cursory examination, it looks to be a majority), Vodafone live! with 3G's launch portfolio of games appears to be heavily invested in 3D. Indeed, one of the areas in which Vodafone is pushing standardization is its new 3G Java standard--called VFX--which essentially consists of MIDP 2.0 combined with Vodafone's handpicked APIs, including 3D gaming tools.

The roster of mobile content companies making use of these new tools is impressive. Digital Chocolate and Sumea have an especially prominent position in the games rollout. They've put together a polygonal remake of Sumea's Extreme Air Snowboarding for the launch, and they've also gained an important license for their new racer, titled Ferrari Experience 3D. Finally, DChoc is publishing Beach Mini Golf, a 3D golfer from indie developer Ninai. Other notable titles for the kickoff include SuperScape's 3D versions of Evel Knievel and AMF Bowling, as well as a mobile interpretation of Crash Twinsanity by Wonderphone. Harrison believes that Vodafone live! with 3G is perfectly suited to delivering content-rich mobile games to a hungry audience. "The great thing about the new service and devices," he said, "is that they will support much larger file sizes. This will mean much more advanced graphics and sound in most of the new games, including different music for each level and the like."

DChoc's lined up some tasty morsels for Vodafone 3G.

According to Harrison, these new capabilities fit hand in glove with Vodafone's new marketing strategy for mobile games, which will be aimed squarely at traditional gamers. "The European market is much more games-brand led than the US market. We're working on a number of things for the Christmas season, including an extensive cross-marketing campaign with Crash Twinsanity. People will see the Vodafone logo on the console game boxes at the point of sale--and in the case of the upcoming FIFA game, we'll be on EA's Web site, too. We want to bring more core gamers into our community."

At the same time, Harrison noted that Vodafone live! with 3G isn't going to abandon staple games just to appeal to core gamers. "We've taken a look at what the popular titles are, and we're porting them too. For instance, we'll have 3G versions of Pac-Man, Tetris, Worms, and Solitaire...titles like those have been the consistent sellers, but there's nothing like linking into the release of an upcoming console title," he explained. Another important part of Vodafone's 3G mobile games strategy is to provide consumers with more buying information and purchase options. According to Harrison, Vodafone live! with 3G will be experimenting with game bundles--offering three-in-one and six-in-one packages of parlor games, for instance--as well as demos of games embedded on handsets, which will include both playable and unplayable varieties. "Seventy-eight percent of mobile owners have played the game that comes embedded on their handset," explained Harrison. "The complete newbie needs to be shown what they can get on their mobile, in an easy-to-access way."

Ultimately, Harrison thinks that Vodafone live! with 3G's gaming plans will help drive the conception of the "mobile console" forward--a process that is already well under way in the popular consciousness. By way of example, Harrison cited the heightened level of interest in mobile from the traditional gaming industry and venture capital firms as proof that mobile gaming is being looked at "very seriously." "There are always going to be people who want more," he continued, "but we see a tremendous opportunity for people to have a superb gaming experience on their phone." Vodafone is shooting for 10 million 3G customers by early 2006; whether it makes its numbers remains to be seen, but when one of the world's largest companies puts its shoulder to the wheel, some movement is inevitable. Tim Harrison and his colleagues are betting that the time is finally right to bring 3G services and advanced mobile gaming to Europe--and we at WGR can't wait to see the gambit's results.
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