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The marriage of the decade may not involve glossy paper celebrities at all, but rather video games and mobile platforms. This includes cell phones, but also handheld consoles and touch-screen hardware.
As such the iPhone/iPod Touch is the game platform nobody expected. The hardware is good, Apple has integrated the distribution method into the hardware, and the revenue sharing scheme is significantly better than for other mobile media.
Even if the machines themselves are powerful, the design limitations of mobile platforms do not appear to be quite compatible with our current gameplay mechanisms -- the screens are small, and the keyboard does not allow one to play with more than two fingers. Touch screen-based phones offer a much more comfortable screen, but don't solve the control issue.
However, as always, specialized game mechanisms will surely appear. The use of the accelerometers in the iPhone is a smart way to circumvent the control issue and explains the success of Crash Bandicoot Nitro Kart on this platform.
We can wager that new forms of games will emerge that circumvent the weaknesses of mobile phones: role-playing or strategy games that do not require complex graphics and can work with limited interfaces.
WAP-, SMS- or MMS-based games, applications complementing more traditional games, games utilizing integrated cameras, co-op puzzle games where each individual holds some of the pieces, gambling games, social games, etc. While these examples are only speculation, I want to emphasize the fact that innovation always arises where we least expect it to.
Mobile games are probably the next horizon of multiplayer gaming as it is the only platform that, in the medium term, can open multiplayer gaming to the true mass market.
I already addressed this trend in a previous article. Its impact on game design and on the economic model of game commercialization will probably be significant. Fiction? Hardly. It is already the case with massively multiplayer games, as well as with the numerous free games relying on microtransactions to generate revenue.
EA DICE's Battlefield Heroes
This business model has been pioneered by Asian publishers and developers and is likely to sweep our shores. It is, in fact, the path taken by EA for Battlefield Heroes, one of the forthcoming titles in the Battlefield series developed by the talented Swedish studio DICE.
Single player games are making use of downloadable content: new equipment, levels, missions, game modes, settings, opponents, etc. There's every chance this will become increasingly extensive.
We can easily predict the impact of this development on the economic model for publishers; that is to say, significant revenue generated by a game will no longer necessarily stop with the initial distribution of the box.