Cell Phone Games -- Why so bad?

Seriously? WTF?

They charge 5 - 10 bucks for these things. A userbase of millions and growing every day. Huge licenses – Splinter Cell, Tony Hawk, etc. And they’re practically the worst games you could imagine with those licenses. Graphics and sound are nice, responsiveness of the keypad is about as good as you expect. But the games are so miserably unfun. What’s stopping people from coming out with good ones?

Is it the bureaucracy – you have to jump through hoops to get any software to appear under ‘get it now’? After some research, I’ve determined that there’s no way to install my own software even if I’m willing to void my warranty. I’d be perfectly content playing something as primitive as Oregon Trail on this thing, and god knows, the cpu is like a million times faster than the old apple 2. It just seems ridiculous that I’ve got all this computing power and bandwidth, yet all I can do with it is view 15 second previews of next season’s 24.

What’s up with no multiplayer? Why can’t I play checkers against another person? I’d totally be willing to shell out the dough for simple multiplayer games. I think my next phone will be whatever smartphone is smallest and not-locked-down.

I agree, is it the limitations in the cell phones?

Every cell phone game (thats not just a simple well known game like Chess or solitare or tetris, etc) is awful. They are not just bad games but games that actually make me angry. As if playing them were some sort of exam paper thats due the next day.

For the record I’ve never actually paid for a cell phone game but have played quite a few of them or seen people playing them.

The market for these games encourages name recognition, not quality.

There is no real ‘review’ system that buyers rely on, so no bad reviews to punish a game. I doubt if word of mouth makes any difference. So it comes down to two factors - name recognition, and getting into the right channels (with the latter dependent to a significant degree on the former). Game quality is not rewarded financially, so publishers don’t really emphasize it.

That’s one aspect that I like about the market I’m targeting at the moment - the downloadable casual market. 95% of sales are ‘try before you buy’, so there’s a very strong incentive to make your game good - if people try it and it’s no good, you get no sales.

It would be nice if someone could make a cell phone with good game controls… I haven’t even seen one with a nice cross pad and discrete buttons.

Maybe that sidetalkin’ thing has good controls, I dunno… normal cell phones don’t seem to.

I bought an ngage because it has decent controls (and its the only series60 phone that cost -$50 instead of cost $300-$600). ngage games DONT however. Emulated genesis games are responsive as hell, but even puyo puyo ngage has funky control delays… dont me started on java stuff. There is some gold in those hills though, ESCAPE zolaman! is a wicked (simple) game of escape from stick man prison.

Sidetalking is crazy though, I’ve still never seen one of those models. The QD is fine, and having a 3rd device to watch Inframan on if I ever get stuck in a line or broken elevator or whatever without my ppc or psp is nice.

The financial model also sucks for cell phone games. The carrier takes a gigantic cut, so they payoff for the developer just isn’t there if they sink a ton of time into it.

When cell phones can play flash games, or any games not designed just for their platform, they will improve.


I’m just waiting for someone to write a MAME client for cell phones. I bet the game companies would be more than happy to license games to the phone service providers.

  • Alan

I like my Freecell … and Frogger … and Worm. That’s about it though. Is there really a market for super duper flashy games? Me, I play phone games if I’m stuck in a cab or I’m bored on the train. If I wanted a “real” gaming experience I’d be at home on my PC. So I look for phone games that can be interrupted at any time (like when I reach my stop or if the phone rings) and that don’t require a huge amount of concentration.

I definitely wouldn’t play online games with other players - the charges are still far too high, at least here in Australia, and the probability of the other player getting interrupted or just randomly leaving would be high, I think, and therefore frustrating.

That said, my boyfriend works for a SMS marketing company who run a trivia engine for various competitions, the trivia engine accepts SMS entries and matches opponents against each other, if no other human player is available then an entrant can play against the computer. I suppose something similar could work for multiplayer phone games but just judging by the amount of problems they seem to have with a simple trivia engine I’d guess it is a while off still! :lol:

That makes sense. It’s sad because the market is so huge, all these machines out there with crap software on them. In a few years nearly everyone will have a cell phone with more computing power than the last generation of consoles.

Even if they didn’t make more sales with better games, multiplayer games would generate another source of income. I’d think a Texas Hold’em multiplayer game, for example (for fake money) – they’d get tons of people going over their daytime minutes on the thing.


Yeah, I’m trying it out on the Nokia N90 and 7710… both have great screens but suffer from wonky controls not really suited for MAME.

text twist
Texas holdem
Nes Emulator
bike or die
word pop

These games rock!!!

Yeah, I’m sure there are good free games. That’s the irony. But most phones don’t let you install your own applications – you can only purchase things through the phone menus. Even if I hack the firmware on my phone I still can’t install applications, I’ve checked. I’ll make sure my next phone isn’t locked down by the carrier.

The N-Gage can be purchases now for -100 dollars, that is, you get 100 dollars back after rebates. I’m pretty sure it isn’t locked down, so you can install Mame or whatever. Looking pretty good in retrospect.

I think you can get one for like 50 bucks from eb or something. Its either 50 or 100.