Roundtable - January 1, 2003 - Part II

Justin: Our next topic for the night is that of Cell Phone RPGs. Several companies have formulated plans for RPGs that can be played over a cellular network. Though most existing cell phone RPGs are very simple compared to their console counterparts, the existence of a nationwide, always-on, portable network leaves some great possibilities open for some unique RPG experiences. How do you think companies could best capitalize on the unique abilities of cell phones to create fun, unique, affordable, and innovative RPGs? Or, for that matter, should they?

Alex: First, and most obviously, I think that it is going to be a while before we have any decent games on cell phones in North America. Due to the lack of a standard here, the industry is ensuring that there is not going to be enough penetration of a format for a while. Europe and Japan are light years ahead of North America when it comes to mobile technology, and that seems to be how it is going to stay for now.

Googleshng: A cell phone is absolutely not suitable to gaming at all in my opinion. Not only are you severely limited in terms of interface, if you're too busy to sit down to play a game, then whatever you're doing is probably too important than to be distracted by a game.

Ed: I agree with Google here, if you're going to play an RPG, you're not there to play it for a couple minutes while on a bus or waiting for class to start. If you're in a position where you can be playing it for any length of time, you're probably at home, so which will you play, your cell phone, or something on a console?

Googleshng: Or a PC, in the case of a networked game.

Alex: Personally, I would much rather sit playing my Game Boy Advance than a cell phone, though the possibilities using online features are intriguing.

Cortney: Since I don't have a cell phone, and probably never will, I'll stick with my GBA for portable gaming. If I did have a cell, I might be interested in a cell phone RPG, but I sure as heck wouldn't use it while driving in 65 mile-per-hour bumper-to-bumper rush hour traffic like some idiots do. I can see it now..."But Officer, I was fighting an Orc, and I only had 1 HP left...and I hadn't saved after getting the Power Crystal!"

James: I like the idea of Cell phone gaming in the way that you don't have to pay extra fees to play the game. Just buy the game and then pay your usual cell phone bills. I think that online gaming that demands that you pay a monthly fee leaves out a large part of the market. Parents don't mind buying Johnny a video game to keep him quiet, but a monthly fee makes them think twice. This cell phone thing is a good way to get past that.

Alex: I think that the biggest downfall of the domestic market is that land-line local calls are free. This has kept the cell phone from being ubiquitous as it is in Europe and Japan. There, just about every person, irrespective of age, has a phone. In that case it makes sense to develop for cell phones, because it is a platform that everyone already has.

Justin: I'd tend to disagree with most of what's been said so far. Cell phone RPGs in the style of console RPGs would absolutely not work, but I think some sort of game in the style of an MMORPG would work just fine. Most people I know that play MMORPGs just sign on for short periods of time to, say, gain a bit of experience or buy and sell goods while they're waiting for their next class to start, and wouldn't necessarily need to invest a lot of time in it. In addition, with some of the features added to modern cell phones, such as GPS transmitters, it could create some really interesting situations, where perhaps the location you are in determines the type of location your character is in in the game, and the people your character can talk to could actually be in the same physical area as you are.

Googleshng: If you aren't going to be touching it much though, why couldn't you get your quick sessions in from home?

Justin: Well, most cell phone games are intended to be quick diversions while waiting in lines or sitting on a train or things like that. Massively multiplayer RPGs geared toward shorter play sessions would be perfect "quick diversions," not so much different than the action/strategy games that are available now.

Ed: Right now, however, in the US, I think cell phone games will be limited to things like Pong and that snake game that comes on every cell phone for quite some time to come.

Googleshng: I'm not saying it isn't a marketable idea; in Japan we're only a few years away from all children having cell phones integrated into their heads at birth. I'm just saying you're far better off gaming from a box.

James: Well maybe as the cell phone, the PDA and everything else get more integrated this will be a possible market that becomes more possible, but right now I don't really see it happening in North America.

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