If you didn’t read any of the reports from GDC: Mobile, but want to get a grip on the market, read this one. Last night John Szeder pretty much wrapped up the state of the business with his "Where is My $10 Billion Mobile Games Industry?" presentation.
Szeder, a ten-year veteran of the mobile game industry began in style, managing to find the only person in the audience still using a non-camera, non-color mobile. He gave the guy $100 for a new phone. "I’m just helping this business along some," he said, to a delighted audience.
Szeder got down to the serious business of trying to work out why the mobiles games business has yet to live up to expectations. It’s currently worth less than $3 billion a year, but is scheduled to reach $13 billion by 2009. He asked, "Look at all the mergers, lay-offs, management changes and name changes. What is going on!?"
He spoofed the industry’s current pre-occupation with incidents like Atari’s 1982 ET game inventory disaster, saying "It’s not all bad. We can look back at the past and find good things too." Pre-eminent among these good lessons are the games that defined platform change including Doom (PC gaming), Myst (CD-ROM) and Wing Commander (Sound Blaster). He asked, "These were breakthrough products for new platforms. Where is our breakthrough product?" He said that Sudoku, Spider-man, bowling games and Pacman are "great brands and great products, but they don’t sell phones and they don’t define mobile gaming."
He warned, "It’s a worse case scenario, but it’s possible that one day the carriers will call up and say, ‘this just isn’t working out for us’. We have to do something to prevent that happening."
He called on developers and publishers to take some risks. "It’s not like the next generation console business in which ‘risk’ is about $50 million. Risk in the mobile space is about $200,000 at the outside. And it can pay-back with a platform-defining game as well as revenues. Every company should dedicate one ‘risk’ project a year."
He added, "At some point we have to take a risk. Otherwise, people could just get really sick of the same old stuff."
Szeder said the mobile platform is certainly not defined by the screen, the input mechanism or the audio. "It’s about connectivity, personalization and portability. We need to leverage those characteristics and we need to be teachers to the marketplace."