Who makes the cell phone games?

Lately at work I’ve been playing some of my (Nokia) cell phone games…

Here are a couple:

Snake 2
-You have to eat the dot and your snake will grow. It’s a challenging game as you have to avoid hitting your snake while he grows prett big. My favorite cell phone game.

-You can play the jigsaw or pairs version. All you have to do is match the pair of cards together before the timer runs out. Pretty cool.

Space Intruders
-This game heavily favors defenders. You are in a space ship shooting down alien ships coming at you. Get’s very hard as you progress. Good game.

We’ll that’s it. The cell phone games may not be on par with PC games, but they are soo fun.

So… Who are the developers that make these games and they must be very profitable considering I’m seeing them on a ton of cell phones.


i’ve heard/read that sega was supposed to start making mobile games. i however, don’t think there’s much of a standard platform for games on devices yet. too much proprietary hardware out there…

It’s a bit of a jungle out there. There’s a lot of kids making these applications, but the larger companies are starting to get involved. I help out one application publisher, Tira Wireless.

Guido Henkel, who was one of the founders of Attic Software (Shadows over Riva) and one of the producers of Planescape Torment, is now running an application developer (G3?).


There’s a company called Digital Bridges that has their hands in a number of cell phone development projects. I haven’t checked around much, so there are undoubtedly other players in the space.

  • Alan

I think the last Romero sighting was a new company called Monkeystone, who was supposed to be making games for portables and mobile phones, but their site is down. Anyone know if they’re still in business?

Private Au, drop and give us thirty pushups for using this term! Don’t let it happen again, or we’ll make you clean out Colonel Asher’s Jeep – and you know how he likes to slop his double-mocha-frappacappucinos all over the front seat and leave fossilized wads of Hubba Bubba in the ashtray.

Sir yes sir! This is, of course, assuming he isn’t just going to launch the jeep into a tank again, is he?

  • Alan

>there are undoubtedly other players in the space

There are many, many. I could name a dozen or two – costs of entry are low, the applications are generally simple, and there’s not enough money to be made in the space (yet) to have encouraged major publishers to consolidate the developers.

There are also just questions concerning who should be controlling that business (the wireless operators, the device manufacturers, third parties), and the answer is likely to be different in different jurisdictions, since the wireless markets in Japan, Europe and North America are very different.

Yet? That seems to strike a hopeful note for future profit. I’m not sure I see that. A proliferation of phone games, sure, but much profit for developers?

If it’s the not-to-distant future in the visions of where wireless wants to be – say my phone is connected to the web 24/7 and I’ve got a nice color touchscreen hidden in it somewhere – why aren’t I just playing Alchemy on MSN games?

Or, to address what could be done now, playing a cheap rip-off of it on the phone called “Lead to Gold” that was programmed in a couple days? Same addictive gameplay, development costs extremely low.

Yes. They are still in business. They are bringing their first game, Hyperspace Delivery Boy, to the GBA now that it has rolled out for the Pocket PC.

Seems to me that none of these games are anything but remakes of older games. I remember the Snake game for example, it came included with QBasic when I had Win 3.11, and I’m sure someone older than me could probably trace it back even further.

Old arcade games and board games are all that’s offered. I have yet to see a truly new offering in the market.

Granted, none of the games are bad. It’s just that there’s no innovation taking place, because this stage in gaming evolution was passed 20-30 years ago on stationary machines.

Most of the current generation of cell phone games are just treating the cell phone as a stripped down Gameboy. The real change wil come when the developers wise up and start taking advantage of the cell phone’s unique capabilities. This might take the form of a communications based or location based game, etc. It’s the whole “evolutionary” vs. “revolutionary” thing all over again.

  • Alan

Unplugged Games and Jamdat also do a number of games.

Most of the developers haven’t been able to do truly cool games until recently, when the new standards, such as BREW and J2, started being deployed by the cell phone service providers and phones cabaple of using the technology were built. There is also no clear path for developers to make enough money to survive long term, but that is slowly coming around.

The US is far behind Asia and Europe in innovation in cell/wireless gaming, mainly because we lag behind in the technology. Greg Costikyan, a founder of Unplugged Games, pointed all this out at length in the Themis Report and I found it fascinating. In Japan, for instance, DoCoMo has over 30 million customers in a country of 120 million and 40% of the premium paid usage is games. In Europe, there is some unusual activity going on. A company called It’s Alive! in Sweden does Assassin-style games in a couple countries, using the geo-locator function of the phones to let people track each other. There is a supporting TV show for it in Britain.

All in all, we haven’t even scratched the surface yet.

True. In Japan, there was a text-based version of Tekken that let you play other players, and the winner earned some of the minutes off the loser’s plan. I don’t know if it is still going, though.

>Unplugged Games and Jamdat also do a number of games

Both those guys do excellent jobs. Also guys like Nuvo and JavaX.

Jessica’s right - it’s really just evolving. I think it’s pretty exciting - the technology is still so limiting, even with J2ME, that the games remind me of the very early days of arcades, circa-1978-83. There’s a lot of focus on creativity (uh, and ripping off old arcade games) since the technology is so limited. Some of the best products have taken advantage of the unique nature of the devices (like the Assassin game Jessica mentioned).

But I’m skeptical of any comparisons with Japan – I just think Japanese culture is far more accepting of games, and probably technology in general. We now have a generation of North Americans (under 25 or so) who don’t view games as geeky, and as they age gaming will likely continue be be more acceptable as a form of entertainment that’s not subject to derision. But right now, you’re just not going to see biz-folk in North America tapping away at a Gameboy or phone game on the way to work, while that’s quite normal in Japan.


I don’t get it. I just don’t get it. That makes me some sort of techno-savvy luddite, huh? I use my phone to make phone calls, my toaster to make toast, and my laptop is lightweight so I can write with it and not get a hernia. I don’t believe in convergence. When I leave the house I don’t play games.
Now my PC, heh, you should see my PC play the games man!

What? You mean you don’t have a combination cellphone/PDA/GPS/TV-remote/writing-tablet/web-enabled/game-device/toaster yet?

  • Alan

>I don’t get it. I just don’t get it. That makes me some sort of techno-savvy luddite, huh? I use my phone to make phone calls

I agree, even though I’m increasingly involved in that industry. I think the North American market for playing games on phones isn’t anywhere near as big as some of the optimistic estimates (based upon the Japanese experience).

I think the applications that are more likely to appeal on phones are things that are otherwise useful tools (like stock quotes, maps, instant messaging, e-mail etc. - although RIM Blackberrys do the latter two better than any phone) and games that don’t require meaningful graphics or an extended time commitment (as any one time while staring at the phone) - like the assassin game, competitive trivia contests, etc.