A mobile game is a video game played on a feature phone, smartphone, PDA, tablet computer, portable media player or calculator. This does not include games played on dedicated handheld video game systems such as Nintendo 3DS or PlayStation Vita.
The first game on a mobile phone was a Tetris game on the Hagenuk MT-2000 device from 1994.
Three years later Nokia launched the very successful Snake on selected models in 1997. Snake and its variants has since become one of the most-played video games and is found on more than 350 million devices worldwide.
Mobile games are played using the technology present on the device itself. For networked games, there are various technologies in common use. Examples include text message (SMS), multimedia message (MMS) or GPS location identification. The first two-player game for mobile phones was a variant of the Snake game for the Nokia 6110, using the infrared port.
However, there are non networked applications, that simply use the device platform to run the game software. The games may be installed over the air, side loaded onto the handset with a cable, or may be embedded in the handheld devices by the OEM or by the mobile operator.
Mobile games are usually downloaded via the mobile operator’s network, but in some cases are also loaded in the mobile handsets when purchased, via infrared connection, Bluetooth, or memory card.
Towards the end of the 20th century mobile phones began to modernize. With the introduction of the « candy bar » cell phone mobile phones’ capabilities significantly improved. With these technological advances mobile phone games were becoming increasingly sophisticated.
Older cell phone games were not as expansive or popular as games for consoles since the hardware for the early mobile phone was not suited for high-color screening or sounds beyond differently pitched beeps. These games were also usually animated with shaded squares (e.g. Snake) due to their limited graphical quality. Unlike today’s cell phone games, which usually have to be purchased, these games came pre-installed and could not be copied or removed.
With the advent of the camera phone cell phones became more common. The storage and graphic capabilities of these phones were better than the older candy bar style phone which meant higher quality games could be produced. This also meant that companies could now make a profit off of the games because of their superior quality. Some early companies utilized the camera phone technology for mobile games such as Namco and Panasonic. In 2003 Namco released a fighting game that used the cell phone’s camera to create a character based on the player’s profile and determined the character’s speed and power based on the image taken; the character could then be sent to another friend’s mobile phone to battle. That same year Panasonic released a virtual pet game in which the pet is fed by photos of foods taken with the camera phone.
In the early 2000s, mobile games gained popularity in Japan’s mobile phone culture, years before the United States or Europe. By 2003, a wide variety of mobile games were available on Japanese phones, ranging from puzzle games and virtual pet titles that utilized camera phone and fingerprint scanner technologies to 3D games with exceptionally high quality graphics. Older arcade-style games became particularly popular on mobile phones, which were an ideal platform for arcade-style games designed for shorter play sessions. Namco began to introduce mobile gaming culture to Europe in 2003.
Nokia tried to create its own mobile gaming platform with the N-Gage in 2003 but this effort failed mainly because, at the time, the convergence of a cell phone and a handheld gaming platform did not mix. Many users complained of having to talk on the phone ‘taco-style’ by tilting it sideways in order to speak and hear. There were hardware issues as well, and though some quality games came out, support for the platform was anemic.
Today, cell phone games have come a very long way. Their graphics are about the same as you would expect on a 4th or 5th generation game console (which may not seem like a very big improvement yet is considered one because the game is being played on a cell phone). Cell phone games now tend to take up a large amount of memory on cell phones. Still, certain games such as « Tetris » and « Solitaire » are somewhat popular cell phone games.
After the integration of 3D APIs into mobile platforms, the mobile gaming world started to launch its own brand games. Real Soccer, Assault Team 3D, Crash Arena 3D, Edge,Labyrinth and Tournament Arena Soccer 3D were the first 3D games who became the sectoral well-known brands. After the huge success of Tournament Arena Soccer 3D byMobilenter with getting over 35 millions of downloads in only 1 week before World Cup 2010, the 3D game development became the primary area of mobile game development and mobile gaming became one of the most important gaming platforms.