Skoool.Ie Wins World Award – 2

skoool.ie is an e-learning website developed by Intel®Ireland, AIB and The Irish Times. The World Summit award involved a review of over 800 e-products from 130 countries. From these 40 exemplars across 8 categories were chosen by experts from 36 countries. The categories were: e-learning, e-culture, e-science, e-government, e-health, e-business, e-entertainment and a special category: e-inclusion.

Interestingly the World Summit Award is a three year global project, held in cooperation with the World Summit on the Information Society 2003-2005 (WSIS). The WSIS is a global platform which brings together Heads of State and Government, Executive Heads of United Nations agencies, national delegates and leaders from non-governmental organizations (NGOs), industry leaders, media representatives and civil society.

The purpose of the Summit is to develop a common vision and understanding of the information society and the adoption of a declaration and plan of action to reduce the digital divide.

gamedevelopers.ie people might be interested to know that Idora, active on the forums on this site, has been very involved in this project.

More info:http://www.itu.int/wsis/basic/about.htmlhere

and

Send Gamedev.Ie E-Cards – 2

If you go to cards/cards/

you can choose from two different designs created by Jab and put together by John Lynch here in DCU.

Let us know if there are any bugs….!

Thanks to everyone for their support during the year and a Merry Christmas to you all from gamedevelopers.ie

Send Gamedev.Ie E-Cards

If you go to cards/cards/

you can choose from two different designs created by Jab and put together by John Lynch here in DCU.

Let us know if there are any bugs….!

Thanks to everyone for their support during the year and a Merry Christmas to you all from gamedevelopers.ie

Skoool.Ie Wins World Award

skoool.ie is an e-learning website developed by Intel®Ireland, AIB and The Irish Times. The World Summit award involved a review of over 800 e-products from 130 countries. From these 40 exemplars across 8 categories were chosen by experts from 36 countries. The categories were: e-learning, e-culture, e-science, e-government, e-health, e-business, e-entertainment and a special category: e-inclusion.

Interestingly the World Summit Award is a three year global project, held in cooperation with the World Summit on the Information Society 2003-2005 (WSIS). The WSIS is a global platform which brings together Heads of State and Government, Executive Heads of United Nations agencies, national delegates and leaders from non-governmental organizations (NGOs), industry leaders, media representatives and civil society.

The purpose of the Summit is to develop a common vision and understanding of the information society and the adoption of a declaration and plan of action to reduce the digital divide.

gamedevelopers.ie people might be interested to know that Idora, active on the forums on this site, has been very involved in this project.

More info:http://www.itu.int/wsis/basic/about.htmlhere

and

Game Design Workshop 9Th Jan – 2

This games design workshop will focus on conceptual issues surrounding game design in general across all platforms. The workshop will be run by Ernest Adams, design consultant and founding member of the IGDA and the Game Developers Conference. For more information on Ernest Adams see index.htmindex.htm

The workshop will run from 9.30-17.00 and involve Ernest giving a lecture on the ‘Fundamental Principals of Game Design’ and then participants will break into teams of five to work on game ideas and concepts.

Registration for the event is free but numbers are strictly limited. Priority will be given to people working in the media industries on game design and academics who are teaching game and 3D design.

Please note that registration is required by this Friday the 19th of Dec.

The booking form can be obtained by mailing gamedevelopers.ie through the contact us section of the website (see top nav. bar) or contacting Michael Kenna in EI mailto:michael.kenna@enterprise-ireland.com here

The event will take place in EI’s building: Merrion Hall, Strand Road, Dublin 4.

Game Design Workshop With Ernest Adams

Date: Friday January 9th 2004

Venue: Merrion Hall, Strand Road, Dublin 4.

Focus of day: Ernest will give a lecture on the ‘Fundamental Principals of Game Design’ and this will be followed by people breaking into teams of five to work on game ideas and concepts.

Time: 9.30-17.00

Registration is free but priority will be given to people currently working in the game design business and academics teaching game and 3D design. You can obtain a booking form by contacting gamedevelopers.ie through the contact us section of the website or mailing Michael Kenna in EI mailto: michael.kenna@enterprise-ireland.comhere by Friday the 18th of Dec.

Game Design Workshop 9Th Jan

This games design workshop will focus on conceptual issues surrounding game design in general across all platforms. The workshop will be run by Ernest Adams, design consultant and founding member of the IGDA and the Game Developers Conference. For more information on Ernest Adams see index.htmindex.htm

The workshop will run from 9.30-17.00 and involve Ernest giving a lecture on the ‘Fundamental Principals of Game Design’ and then participants will break into teams of five to work on game ideas and concepts.

Registration for the event is free but numbers are strictly limited. Priority will be given to people working in the media industries on game design and academics who are teaching game and 3D design.

Please note that registration is required by this Friday the 19th of Dec.

The booking form can be obtained by mailing gamedevelopers.ie through the contact us section of the website (see top nav. bar) or contacting Michael Kenna in EI mailto:michael.kenna@enterprise-ireland.com here

The event will take place in EI’s building: Merrion Hall, Strand Road, Dublin 4.

Igda Ireland Chapter Launch Event

Venue: The Digital Hub, Thomas Street, Dublin 2.

Just before the turn for the Guinness Storehouse and opposite the Digital Depot.

Time: 7pm

Event: Launch of IGDA Ireland with special guest speaker Ernest Adams.

Attendance free and open to all.

more details to follow…but put the date in your diary…

Dare Info. Day 10Th Dec. 03 – 2

I was really impressed with the turnout on the day, nearly 200 people took seats to hear Dr. Jim Terkeurst, from the University of Abertay, give an overview of the digital games industry, key trends and what it is really like to work in the industry. What I took from this talk was the PS2 is the king of consoles, the European market is expanding fast and this year is the peak of the current console cycle. Jim noted that digital games were not yet mass market, like DVDs, and while bigger than the cinema box office, was not bigger than Hollywood.

As aspiring developers he warned us to be aware that budgets for a console game were between $5 and $30 million and that there were two types of developers: game factories, or ‘time to market’ developers, who delivered on time and within budget and game mavericks who had great ideas but came in late and over budget. The latter were the source of innovation but then these ideas often get moved to time to market developers.

Key issues he discussed were the importance of domestic and global markets, diversity (of sex and culture) within game companies, the detailed and long recruitment process and continuous training while on the job and the rewards (financial). He advised that would be developers need vision, focus, leadership, and excellence. He also noted that there are more than just developers in the industry – a key role in the industry is that of the producer/project manager. Other opportunities lay in outsourcing key functions, like animation and audio and localisation.

Today he noted that companies are getting larger, over 100 people, and this size was needed to support key functions like advanced technology teams; a necessity in the changing industrial environment. Finally, a game development company’s value lies in intellectual property and ideas – this is key to survival and this message was repeated throughout the morning.

Jim was followed by Jackie McKenzie from the University of Abertay who gave us a real bread and butter description of the Dare competition. While some issues have still to be finalised in relation to the Irish version of the competition, Jackie gave us a great insight into how the competition works in the Scottish Context.

To enter the Dare competition people must form teams of five people with a balance of skills between programming and animation and appoint a team lead. It would appear that the balance between animation and programming should be about half and half on the team with one person responsible for team management and reporting. The first stage in the competition is called a ‘paper sift’ and at this stage you don’t need a demo, you need to be able to describe your team, it cohesiveness and its skills, your concept and its market potential and have a planned ten week schedule of work that is realistic.

From these paper applications a number of teams will be chosen for interview and at this stage it would be good to have some conceptual art (not necessarily original) to illustrate your game concept. This is a ‘pitch’ essentially to an industry panel so you put your best sales person forward for this. In the Irish context if you get selected for the competition, the team will be housed in the digital depot, given computers and software, participate in regular video conferencing sessions with Abertay and work damn hard for ten weeks to get a playable version of their game concept ready for final judging. The final week for the Irish team will be spent in Abertay interacting with the other teams and adding the finishing touches. And what are the final game concepts judged on? Creativity, innovation and what the team achieved in the ten weeks.

A further incentive of the competition is that you get paid during the 10 week development period and there are cash prizes for the wining game concepts. Damian Furlong also added that competing in the competition seems to add an extra brownie point to your CV, while being a winner added two. Two of his team mates from last year’s competition are now working with EA.

Damian Furlong gave us an interesting insight into what can be achieved in just 10 weeks when he demonstrated the project he was involved in Demon Lore. Readers of gamedevelopers.ie will remember that we followed this competition closely back in September, and the fact that Damian, a graduate of DCU, was involved in one of the winning teams added an extra dimension. Yesterday he demonstrated just what their team achieved in terms of both tool development and content. Most of the audience were bog-smacked!

These presentations were followed after coffee by a panel discussion on the Irish games industry with Michael Kenna from Enterprise Ireland, Michael Griffen from our own Kapooki Games, Gerry Carty from Vivendi Universal Games Ltd. and Michael Hallissy from the Digital Hub.

Chaired by my good self, the discussion focussed on where we are at currently in the industry in Ireland and how we could grow the industry in the medium term to compete globally. Key discussion points from the panel were costs of entry, skills/competencies and emerging markets like wireless and massively multiplayer games. IDA are actively trying to attract international developers and publishers to Ireland while EI offers various supports including finance, mentoring and management support to start-up companies. Questions from the floor examined key functions that Ireland might be able to offer to international companies including animation and QA, how one can gain access to the industry and gain the required ‘experience’, the need to break the ‘boys club’ aspect of the industry and design games for women and piracy. Members of the panel noted that some large companies like EA offer placement programmes while localisation and QA are good entry points into the industry also.

The morning event finished just after 1 with teas, coffees, sandwiches and animated discussions. A further information event on the Dare to be Digital Ireland competition will be held in the New Year and a Irish version of the website is forthcoming.

Back in September we did a feature on Abertay university and the Dare to be Digital Competition. Seefeatures/index.php?article=8features/index.php?article=8

Other info: index.asp?i=259

Scholarships To Gdc 2004 – 2

The International Games Development Association is hosting the 4th Games Development Conference (GDC) in San Jose, California on March 22-26, 2004. In a programme aimed to help games development students worldwide to network with other experienced developers, the IGDA are offering 25 scholarships, which effectively gives recipients full access to conference seminars, panel discussions and exhibits. Applications for the scholarships are available at:http://www.igda.org/students/scholarships.phpwww.igda.org/scholarships

The deadline for scholarship applications is January 28, 2004.

Recipients will be judged by the IGDA Education Committee and board members and announced in early February.
Complete information on the scholarship program and requirements can be found at:http://www.igda.org/students/scholarships.phpwww.igda.org/scholarships

For more information on GDC 2004, go to:./www.gdconf.com
Reports from past conferences can be found at:
http://www.igda.org/students/scholarship_reports.phphttp://www.igda.org/students/scholarship_reports.php

Gdc ’04 22-26 March, 2004

The International Games Development Association is hosting the 4th Games Development Conference (GDC) in San Jose, California on March 22-26, 2004. In a programme aimed to help games development students worldwide to network with other experienced developers, the IGDA have offered 25 scholarships, which effectively gives recipients full access to conference seminars, panel discussions and exhibits. Applications for the scholarships are available at:http://www.igda.org/students/scholarships.phpwww.igda.org/scholarships

The deadline for scholarship applications is January 28, 2004.

For more information on GDC 2004, go to:
www.gdconf.com
Reports from past conferences can be found at:
http://www.igda.org/students/scholarship_reports.phphttp://www.igda.org/students/scholarship_reports.php

Deadline For Gdc 2004 Scholarships

The International Games Development Association is hosting the 4th Games Development Conference (GDC) in San Jose, California on March 22-26, 2004. In a programme aimed to help games development students worldwide to network with other experienced developers, the IGDA are offering 25 scholarships, which effectively gives recipients full access to conference seminars, panel discussions and exhibits. Applications for the scholarships are available at:http://www.igda.org/students/scholarships.phpwww.igda.org/scholarships

The deadline for scholarship applications is January 28, 2004.

Recipients will be judged by the IGDA Education Committee and board members and announced in early February.

For more information on GDC 2004, go to:
./www.gdconf.com
Reports from past conferences can be found at:
http://www.igda.org/students/scholarship_reports.phphttp://www.igda.org/students/scholarship_reports.php

Scholarships To Gdc 2004

The International Games Development Association is hosting the 4th Games Development Conference (GDC) in San Jose, California on March 22-26, 2004. In a programme aimed to help games development students worldwide to network with other experienced developers, the IGDA are offering 25 scholarships, which effectively gives recipients full access to conference seminars, panel discussions and exhibits. Applications for the scholarships are available at:http://www.igda.org/students/scholarships.phpwww.igda.org/scholarships

The deadline for scholarship applications is January 28, 2004.

Recipients will be judged by the IGDA Education Committee and board members and announced in early February.
Complete information on the scholarship program and requirements can be found at:http://www.igda.org/students/scholarships.phpwww.igda.org/scholarships

For more information on GDC 2004, go to:./www.gdconf.com
Reports from past conferences can be found at:
http://www.igda.org/students/scholarship_reports.phphttp://www.igda.org/students/scholarship_reports.php

Dare Info. Day 10Th Dec. 03

I was really impressed with the turnout on the day, nearly 200 people took seats to hear Dr. Jim Terkeurst, from the University of Abertay, give an overview of the digital games industry, key trends and what it is really like to work in the industry. What I took from this talk was the PS2 is the king of consoles, the European market is expanding fast and this year is the peak of the current console cycle. Jim noted that digital games were not yet mass market, like DVDs, and while bigger than the cinema box office, was not bigger than Hollywood.

As aspiring developers he warned us to be aware that budgets for a console game were between $5 and $30 million and that there were two types of developers: game factories, or ‘time to market’ developers, who delivered on time and within budget and game mavericks who had great ideas but came in late and over budget. The latter were the source of innovation but then these ideas often get moved to time to market developers.

Key issues he discussed were the importance of domestic and global markets, diversity (of sex and culture) within game companies, the detailed and long recruitment process and continuous training while on the job and the rewards (financial). He advised that would be developers need vision, focus, leadership, and excellence. He also noted that there are more than just developers in the industry – a key role in the industry is that of the producer/project manager. Other opportunities lay in outsourcing key functions, like animation and audio and localisation.

Today he noted that companies are getting larger, over 100 people, and this size was needed to support key functions like advanced technology teams; a necessity in the changing industrial environment. Finally, a game development company’s value lies in intellectual property and ideas – this is key to survival and this message was repeated throughout the morning.

Jim was followed by Jackie McKenzie from the University of Abertay who gave us a real bread and butter description of the Dare competition. While some issues have still to be finalised in relation to the Irish version of the competition, Jackie gave us a great insight into how the competition works in the Scottish Context.

To enter the Dare competition people must form teams of five people with a balance of skills between programming and animation and appoint a team lead. It would appear that the balance between animation and programming should be about half and half on the team with one person responsible for team management and reporting. The first stage in the competition is called a ‘paper sift’ and at this stage you don’t need a demo, you need to be able to describe your team, it cohesiveness and its skills, your concept and its market potential and have a planned ten week schedule of work that is realistic.

From these paper applications a number of teams will be chosen for interview and at this stage it would be good to have some conceptual art (not necessarily original) to illustrate your game concept. This is a ‘pitch’ essentially to an industry panel so you put your best sales person forward for this. In the Irish context if you get selected for the competition, the team will be housed in the digital depot, given computers and software, participate in regular video conferencing sessions with Abertay and work damn hard for ten weeks to get a playable version of their game concept ready for final judging. The final week for the Irish team will be spent in Abertay interacting with the other teams and adding the finishing touches. And what are the final game concepts judged on? Creativity, innovation and what the team achieved in the ten weeks.

A further incentive of the competition is that you get paid during the 10 week development period and there are cash prizes for the wining game concepts. Damian Furlong also added that competing in the competition seems to add an extra brownie point to your CV, while being a winner added two. Two of his team mates from last year’s competition are now working with EA.

Damian Furlong gave us an interesting insight into what can be achieved in just 10 weeks when he demonstrated the project he was involved in Demon Lore. Readers of gamedevelopers.ie will remember that we followed this competition closely back in September, and the fact that Damian, a graduate of DCU, was involved in one of the winning teams added an extra dimension. Yesterday he demonstrated just what their team achieved in terms of both tool development and content. Most of the audience were bog-smacked!

These presentations were followed after coffee by a panel discussion on the Irish games industry with Michael Kenna from Enterprise Ireland, Michael Griffen from our own Kapooki Games, Gerry Carty from Vivendi Universal Games Ltd. and Michael Hallissy from the Digital Hub.

Chaired by my good self, the discussion focussed on where we are at currently in the industry in Ireland and how we could grow the industry in the medium term to compete globally. Key discussion points from the panel were costs of entry, skills/competencies and emerging markets like wireless and massively multiplayer games. IDA are actively trying to attract international developers and publishers to Ireland while EI offers various supports including finance, mentoring and management support to start-up companies. Questions from the floor examined key functions that Ireland might be able to offer to international companies including animation and QA, how one can gain access to the industry and gain the required ‘experience’, the need to break the ‘boys club’ aspect of the industry and design games for women and piracy. Members of the panel noted that some large companies like EA offer placement programmes while localisation and QA are good entry points into the industry also.

The morning event finished just after 1 with teas, coffees, sandwiches and animated discussions. A further information event on the Dare to be Digital Ireland competition will be held in the New Year and a Irish version of the website is forthcoming.

Back in September we did a feature on Abertay university and the Dare to be Digital Competition. Seefeatures/index.php?article=8features/index.php?article=8

Other info: index.asp?i=259

O2 Digital Media Awards

Location:The Burlington Hotel, Dublin

The second O2 Digital Media Awards will take place on January 2004 hosted by Digital Media Intelligence. The last event attracted nearly 300 entries and almost 600 people attended the event.

Deadline for promotional branding opportunities: 5th December 2003
Deadline for entries: 5th December 2003
Deadline for table bookings: 23rd December 2003
Deadline for advertising in awards review catalogue:February 15th 2004

For further details:
dma2004.htmwww.digitalmediaintelligence.com/dma2004.htm

Contact:
Digital Media Intelligence,
Digital Media House,9
Baggot Court,
Dublin 2
email: mailto:info@digitalmedia.ieinfo@digitalmedia.ie

Hanging On The Telephone

Like most 21st Century cultural phenomena, mobile gaming was kick-started by a celebrity endorsement. Ever since football’s squeaky-voiced fashion icon David Beckham stood in a supermarket queue playing PacMan on his Vodafone, mobile games have become a major revenue spinner in Ireland. After this advertisement was broadcast, hoards of teens and 20-somethings poured into retail outlets asking for “one of those Beckham phones”.

Last year a report from Analysys (a telecoms and new media analyst) predicted that by 2007, Western European consumers will spend €23bn on mobile content and entertainment services –17% of their total mobile service expenditure. Played less by dedicated gamers, more by regular Joes and Jills with a few minutes to spare on the bus, mobile games are proving a popular mass-market accessory. The console-to-wireless port – from primeval classics like Space Invaders to more recent blockbusters like Splinter Cell – is bringing plenty of tried and tested games to the small screen.

Meanwhile, an increase in technology and production values has led to the emergence of Irish development studios who are creating original mobile content. Eirplay, based in Dublin, was founded by experienced pros from the mainstream games and finance industries who first decided to dip their toes into the mobile market with the advent of Java games. Titles like Crazy Creche, Monster Madness and Toxic Terrors, have all sold well overseas – in fact, Eirplay has avoided Irish telecos altogether, and distributes its wares on the continent. Eirplay’s latest product, Curse of Khofu (which features ten animated characters), is evidence of skilled technical brushstrokes on the limited canvas of mobile phones.

Despite their quality of product, there is a consensus amongst developers in Ireland, the UK, and elsewhere in Europe, that operators must improve financial and working relationships with content providers. Are carriers striving to deliver services through their technology, or are celebrity endorsements simply slick (but vacuous) marketing tricks to sell platforms? Is consolidation amongst developers, aggregators and carriers necessary for the needs of mobile developers to be fully understood? After all, in order to harness the highly lucrative market of mobile gaming, it is in operators’ interests that they nurture developers.

One of the biggest hitches continues to be interoperability, explains Eirplay’s Peter Lynch. “A multitude of handsets with different screen sizes, combined with conflicting technology standards, makes it quite time consuming to port games to all the different handsets. We support the main handsets – Nokia, Siemens, Motorola and Ericsson – but even that can means dozens of different formats for a single game.”

Peter draws a contrast with Japan, a paradise for developers where mobile operators actively encourage content. NTT DoCoMo’s successful i-mode network allows content providers to deliver games to handsets custom built to NTT’s specifications. No faffing around there: the finished game plays across mobile devices. Under NTT Docomo’s i-mode model, 91% of revenue from applications goes to application developers – an enviable contrast to Europe where there remains no i-mode model for Java games and network providers will only assist developers in exchange for a large revenue share (ranging from 40% to 60%). In the United States, meanwhile, networks are emulating the DoCoMo model, offering J2ME game developers 80% of revenues.

Irish betting company Betdaq, owned by entrepreneur Dermot Desmond, decided to bypass telecos altogether and deliver its own mobile application. This remote gambling service is only available to Betdaq customers and does not fall under the auspices of any operator. The service runs on the XDA – a combined PDA and mobile phone,which Betdaq has customised and sells to customers – and is delivered via General Packet Radio Service (GPRS) networks. Might this betting tool provide a model that large game development studios might emulate?

“Our mobile application has been selectively distributed to higher volume users,” explains Betdaq’s Rob Hartnett. “The biggest stumbling block with the device specific solution is that you are asking your customers to use a mobile device they may not be familiar with, possibly at the expense of one they are. [With games] it would depend on whether the quality of the proposition, and the value you can derive from it, is high enough to overcome the reticence of the public towards device specific solutions.” The muted consumer reaction to Nokia’s N-Gage suggests that going it alone might be a tough route.

International steps have been taken to define mobile games interoperability specifications and application programming interfaces. The Mobile Games Interoperability Forum (MGIF), founded in July 2001 by Ericsson, Motorola, Nokia and Siemens, was founded with the purpose of creating a global standard whereby game developers produce and deploy mobile games that can be distributed across multiple game servers and wireless networks. Steps are being taken to break down technical barriers although it is clear that the entertainment and gaming industry has not yet been fully able to exploit the great potential of mobile phones.

Distribution is often another sticky point in the relationship between content provider and network operator, although Irish middlemen like Trust5 are trying to make the process a little less stressful for developers.

“Trust5 have direct connections to mobile operators worldwide,” explains CEO Paul O’Grady. “It also provides its own IVR (interactive voice recognition) and internet services so we are a one-stop-shop for developers to sell their games in a country. We have partnerships with mobile operators, media companies (TV, magazines and newspapers) and retail chains. When you combine this with the fact that we produce millions of catalogues of mobile content each year, Trust5 is the ideal company for developers as we are much more than aggregators.”

Paul firmly believes that the future of mobile games lies in retail. A consumer currently orders a game by sending a text message and around €5 is then added to his or her account, but there will soon come a time when content will be packaged and sold from the shelf. “Retailing games will become more and more of a factor as phones get better and the quality of handsets improve,” adds Eirplay’s Peter Lynch.

As it stands, aggregators and developers require higher revenue shares from sales in order to develop better games and mobile gaming innovations, but Irish operators are not going to comply until technology standards behind mobile games improve. This Catch-22 is likely to remain until network providers are removed from the equation entirely and retail steps in.

“Right now Irish operators are not looking into the true demographics of the market and are just throwing games out there to see what sells,” concludes Peter. “PC and console developers receive their money upfront from the publisher. Mobile operators need to do the same thing.”

In order to increase consumer interest in mobile gaming, Irish telecos need to scale back their current business model and accept a type of revenue sharing along the lines of NTT DoCoMo. There are many ways to make money in a wireless world, but until operators and application developers cease to be at odds with one another then the mobile games market will inevitably stagnate.

Useful links:
Eirplay Games, an Irish mobile content developer
Trust 5, an Irish aggregator
BetDaq, an Irish betting company betdaqbetdaq
The Mobile Games Interoperability Forum http://www.openmobilealliance.org/mgif/http://www.openmobilealliance.org/mgif/
NTT’s DoCoMo USA with links to other offices worldwide http://www.docomo-usa.com/link/http://www.docomo-usa.com/link/

Author bio: Pavel Barter is a freelance journalist and member of Dublin-based guitar band the West Seventies(www.thewestseventies.com). Both activities, he admits, beat working for a living.

Thanks also to Nicky Gogan in the Digital Hub for the montage of images from Eirplay Games which accompanies this feature.

Hanging On The Telephone – 2

Like most 21st Century cultural phenomena, mobile gaming was kick-started by a celebrity endorsement. Ever since football’s squeaky-voiced fashion icon David Beckham stood in a supermarket queue playing PacMan on his Vodafone, mobile games have become a major revenue spinner in Ireland. After this advertisement was broadcast, hoards of teens and 20-somethings poured into retail outlets asking for “one of those Beckham phones”.

Last year a report from Analysys (a telecoms and new media analyst) predicted that by 2007, Western European consumers will spend €23bn on mobile content and entertainment services –17% of their total mobile service expenditure. Played less by dedicated gamers, more by regular Joes and Jills with a few minutes to spare on the bus, mobile games are proving a popular mass-market accessory. The console-to-wireless port – from primeval classics like Space Invaders to more recent blockbusters like Splinter Cell – is bringing plenty of tried and tested games to the small screen.

Meanwhile, an increase in technology and production values has led to the emergence of Irish development studios who are creating original mobile content. Eirplay, based in Dublin, was founded by experienced pros from the mainstream games and finance industries who first decided to dip their toes into the mobile market with the advent of Java games. Titles like Crazy Creche, Monster Madness and Toxic Terrors, have all sold well overseas – in fact, Eirplay has avoided Irish telecos altogether, and distributes its wares on the continent. Eirplay’s latest product, Curse of Khofu (which features ten animated characters), is evidence of skilled technical brushstrokes on the limited canvas of mobile phones.

Despite their quality of product, there is a consensus amongst developers in Ireland, the UK, and elsewhere in Europe, that operators must improve financial and working relationships with content providers. Are carriers striving to deliver services through their technology, or are celebrity endorsements simply slick (but vacuous) marketing tricks to sell platforms? Is consolidation amongst developers, aggregators and carriers necessary for the needs of mobile developers to be fully understood? After all, in order to harness the highly lucrative market of mobile gaming, it is in operators’ interests that they nurture developers.

One of the biggest hitches continues to be interoperability, explains Eirplay’s Peter Lynch. “A multitude of handsets with different screen sizes, combined with conflicting technology standards, makes it quite time consuming to port games to all the different handsets. We support the main handsets – Nokia, Siemens, Motorola and Ericsson – but even that can means dozens of different formats for a single game.”

Peter draws a contrast with Japan, a paradise for developers where mobile operators actively encourage content. NTT DoCoMo’s successful i-mode network allows content providers to deliver games to handsets custom built to NTT’s specifications. No faffing around there: the finished game plays across mobile devices. Under NTT Docomo’s i-mode model, 91% of revenue from applications goes to application developers – an enviable contrast to Europe where there remains no i-mode model for Java games and network providers will only assist developers in exchange for a large revenue share (ranging from 40% to 60%). In the United States, meanwhile, networks are emulating the DoCoMo model, offering J2ME game developers 80% of revenues.

Irish betting company Betdaq, owned by entrepreneur Dermot Desmond, decided to bypass telecos altogether and deliver its own mobile application. This remote gambling service is only available to Betdaq customers and does not fall under the auspices of any operator. The service runs on the XDA – a combined PDA and mobile phone,which Betdaq has customised and sells to customers – and is delivered via General Packet Radio Service (GPRS) networks. Might this betting tool provide a model that large game development studios might emulate?

“Our mobile application has been selectively distributed to higher volume users,” explains Betdaq’s Rob Hartnett. “The biggest stumbling block with the device specific solution is that you are asking your customers to use a mobile device they may not be familiar with, possibly at the expense of one they are. [With games] it would depend on whether the quality of the proposition, and the value you can derive from it, is high enough to overcome the reticence of the public towards device specific solutions.” The muted consumer reaction to Nokia’s N-Gage suggests that going it alone might be a tough route.

International steps have been taken to define mobile games interoperability specifications and application programming interfaces. The Mobile Games Interoperability Forum (MGIF), founded in July 2001 by Ericsson, Motorola, Nokia and Siemens, was founded with the purpose of creating a global standard whereby game developers produce and deploy mobile games that can be distributed across multiple game servers and wireless networks. Steps are being taken to break down technical barriers although it is clear that the entertainment and gaming industry has not yet been fully able to exploit the great potential of mobile phones.

Distribution is often another sticky point in the relationship between content provider and network operator, although Irish middlemen like Trust5 are trying to make the process a little less stressful for developers.

“Trust5 have direct connections to mobile operators worldwide,” explains CEO Paul O’Grady. “It also provides its own IVR (interactive voice recognition) and internet services so we are a one-stop-shop for developers to sell their games in a country. We have partnerships with mobile operators, media companies (TV, magazines and newspapers) and retail chains. When you combine this with the fact that we produce millions of catalogues of mobile content each year, Trust5 is the ideal company for developers as we are much more than aggregators.”

Paul firmly believes that the future of mobile games lies in retail. A consumer currently orders a game by sending a text message and around €5 is then added to his or her account, but there will soon come a time when content will be packaged and sold from the shelf. “Retailing games will become more and more of a factor as phones get better and the quality of handsets improve,” adds Eirplay’s Peter Lynch.

As it stands, aggregators and developers require higher revenue shares from sales in order to develop better games and mobile gaming innovations, but Irish operators are not going to comply until technology standards behind mobile games improve. This Catch-22 is likely to remain until network providers are removed from the equation entirely and retail steps in.

“Right now Irish operators are not looking into the true demographics of the market and are just throwing games out there to see what sells,” concludes Peter. “PC and console developers receive their money upfront from the publisher. Mobile operators need to do the same thing.”

In order to increase consumer interest in mobile gaming, Irish telecos need to scale back their current business model and accept a type of revenue sharing along the lines of NTT DoCoMo. There are many ways to make money in a wireless world, but until operators and application developers cease to be at odds with one another then the mobile games market will inevitably stagnate.

Useful links:
Eirplay Games, an Irish mobile content developer
Trust 5, an Irish aggregator
BetDaq, an Irish betting company betdaqbetdaq
The Mobile Games Interoperability Forum http://www.openmobilealliance.org/mgif/http://www.openmobilealliance.org/mgif/
NTT’s DoCoMo USA with links to other offices worldwide http://www.docomo-usa.com/link/http://www.docomo-usa.com/link/

Author bio: Pavel Barter is a freelance journalist and member of Dublin-based guitar band the West Seventies(www.thewestseventies.com). Both activities, he admits, beat working for a living.

Thanks also to Nicky Gogan in the Digital Hub for the montage of images from Eirplay Games which accompanies this feature.

Talk Digital

Venue: The Digital Hub Project Office, 10 -13 Thomas Street, Dublin 8
Time: 6.30pm – 8.30pm

Talk Digital is a series of informal discussions for the digital media and creative sectors. These seminars are held in conjunction with a series of exhibitions which are interested in creating a cultural and educational environment encouraging dialogue in technological and art practices.

Speakers:

John Buckley: (In)Security
Dublin-based Artist and Designer and recent graduate from NCAD, Masters in Virtual Realities, John Buckley will talk about his latest project(In)Security. (In)Security is an exploration of the increasing politicisation of videogaming. It is a virtual environment that engages with the presence of current political scenarios in 3D FPS (first person shooter)gaming
systems.

Dennis McNulty: Gameboy Music
Dennis McNulty works with sound in a variety of contexts. In the early
nineties he co-founded the ultramack/u:mack label and studios and as one half of Decal, released three albums and many other tracks on a number of international and Irish labels, among them Planet-Mu, Warp and Rotters Golf Club.

Since graduating from the Music and Media Technology Course (Trinity
College) in 2000, his interests have focused on generative sonic
systems and electronic improvisation. His project Gameboy Music looks at how the Nanoloop cartridge turns a Gameboy console into a combined
synthesiser and sequencer.

Paul Murnaghan: Snow

Paul Murnaghan’s work has always strived to express human emotion
through a mixture of familiar tactile objects and digital manipulation.
With this new work ‘snow’ he plays with the idea of comfort via our
"third parent" – television, focusing on a broken-down TV as both
catalyst and source material. ‘snow’ is built around human interaction
and is a further development of the natural tactile interfaces that are
present within Paul Murnaghan’s work.

Philip O’Dwyer: State Design
Philip O’Dwyer was born in Dublin in 1974 and grew up in County
Tipperary. He studied Graphic Design at Limerick School of Art and
Design and Central Saint Martins in London. After college he worked as
part of a collective of designers and writers, out of which grew State
Design. Onedotzero Film Festival is one of State Design’s earliest
clients. A cross-disciplinary design company, Philip and partner Mark
Hough work in motion graphics, interactive design and book design.
Game On is a touring exhibition exploring the history, culture and
future of video- games, originally shown at the Barbican Gallery, London
in 2002.

http://www.statedesign.co.uk/gameon/http://www.statedesign.co.uk/gameon/

For more information visit:
www.thedigitalhub.com

Dec. Shindig

Well the date has been settled and it looks like it will be in Mahaffeys again but they are likely to be fairly packed…unless we get there about mid day they can’t keep us seats. Now there is a challenge for us!

Mahaffeys pub is on the corner of Pearse st/westland row, at the back of Trinity College and near Pearse Street Dart station in Dublin.

Time: from 7.30 pm

Mms Breakfast Briefing

Title: Driving MMS deployments to mass market success

This is an MMS Breakfast Briefing sponsored by Wireless Wednesday in association with Meteor, Nokia and Acotel.

Time: 8am-10am.
Location: The Shelbourne Hotel, Stephens Green, Dublin 2
Registration: 35 euro per person; group discounts available. Registration will take place between 7.30am-8am and a light breakfast will be served. Presentations followed by Q&A panel discussion with representatives from Meteor, Nokia and Acotel.

Programme:

Gavin Barrett, Business Development Manager, Nokia
‘MMS – Success cases from World markets’
nokia/0,8764,28418,00.html

Warren Harding, Project Manager GPRS, Meteor
‘Launching MMS in a sophisticated market as the third operator’

Lorraine Fahy, Business Development, Acotel Group S.p.A
‘Launching MMS VAS (Value added services) – An International viewpoint’

For further information on this event click here:
events/eventsb.htmlevents/eventsb.html

Upcoming Event:
‘Developing Irelands Medical Device sector – Innovation through Knowledge’ Sharing ‘events/eventsa.htmlevents/eventsa.html