Mon, 23 Sep 2002

Never enough games on your cellphone?

Some people think twice before pulling their cellphones out of their pocket or purse for the obvious safety and security reasons.

Even in London and other major cities in Europe, cellphones get snatched all the time. In Jakarta, members of the infamous Kapak Merah (Red Axe) gangs never hesitate to smash your car's windshield to force you to hand over your cellphone to them as you get stuck in traffic. Yet, a lot of people still comfortably whip out their late-model cellphones in public places, oblivious to the risks. Interestingly, upon closer observation, it turns out that what makes these people so brave is that they cannot resist the urge to play the games on these gadgets right there and then.

Today, it is almost impossible to find a cellphone that has no built-in game application whatsoever, even the most basic ones such as Minesweeper and Snake. In the meantime, new technologies are also making the gaming experience on the cellphones more captivating. Color displays, support for Java and Qualcomm's BREW are just some of the technological advances that drive gaming on these personal devices.

Chip designer ARM, whose designs are used in a lot of the chips found in today's cellphones, believes that in three or four years the cellphones will have 3-D capability to support 3-D games similar to what people play on their high-end PCs today. That will be the time when the 3-D graphics capability also becomes available on such tiny packages.

In the meantime, ARM has jointly developed a new 3-D software platform with SuperScape and Imagination Technologies that will enable us to display 3-D games on cellphones such as Nokia 7650 and Sony-Ericsson P800. The platform is called Swerve. It is currently available for download, but not many games are available for it yet. However, ARM sees a lot of Java-based game software coming up this Christmas.

While waiting for the 3-D games, where do you go to find the latest game collections? There are plenty of them available on the net. For sure, every cellphone maker will have a library of games that you can select. Nokia (, for example, lets you choose the right games for your specific Nokia model. There are also hundreds of clubs that you can join and can offer you more games. Are you into interactive, online gaming? Kurusetra ( is a very popular online gaming site in Indonesia, and with the help of M-Web, cellphone users are expected to be able to play the game by sending SMSes.

When the GPRS services become more pervasive, and particularly later when the 3G services are already available, we can expect interactive games to become even more captivating. Three things immediately come to mind: What can we do to make cellphones no longer attractive to snatchers and pickpockets, so that people can sit in the park and play their cellphone games more openly? Second, in light of this trend, do we really have to change our perception of cellphones from a productivity tool to an entertainment device? More importantly, perhaps, how can our programmers start benefiting from the trend by developing more local game software?

-- Zatni Arbi