The chameleonic nature of both Nokia and the mobile games market and how they enable new kinds of gameplay, were the subject of Nokia’s EVP of markets Anssi Vanjoki’s keynote opening the second day of the GDC Mobile element of the Game Developers Conference.
Talking of a "world where everyone is connected", Vanjoki offered a broad overview of the future of mobile and its interconnectivity with the web and how it enables new ways to make, share and play games.
He began with an overview of the mobile sector as it stands, ponting out that "never in the history of mankind has there been a consumer product as durable as the phone" and echoing comments from Gameloft boss Michel Guillemot the day before by predicting a global installed base for the mobile phone of four billion globally by 2010.
Nokia claims around a billion of those handsets, and via its research Vanjoki said the company had identified a key part of its many customers – 200 million ‘technology leaders’ who are dictating the future of mobile via their use of advanced handsets by Nokia and its rivals. He called them "the hotspot of the consumer electronics and IT revolution", adding that everyone in this category is exploiting the various functions of mobile because "it’s with you all the time and is active 24/7".
For those users only 12 per cent of usage is for voice functions, with browsing eight per cent. Games use was four per cent, messaging 37 per cent and multimedia 16 per cent. WiFi use is a third of data (31 per cent) transfers, which Vanjoki said was "interesting because this is the fast and open channel, not dominated by cellular system".
With this in mind, he said it was clear mobile devices had become "a multimedia computer that lets people be present in the internet all the time" and has become a primary interface for the internet and social networks.
He added that it was proof that the internet was beginning to move beyond Web 2.0 to ‘Web NG’ (as in next-gen), "a contextual presence where we are extending our souls to be part of the online experience".
For games, he added: "Web NG will allow for gaming new experience where we mix and mash up reality with virtuality.
"Much more participation with content made as the game is being played by the people playing the game. A whole new world of creativity waiting for us."
Web and mobile has become a tool to "annotate everything we do via connectivity" he added, showing examples of GPS and photo sharing. "Think what that is bringing into the game context," he said.
Nokia has researched this category, he added, saying the firm’s explorations have been varied. 2006’s photo-based reality game Manhattan Story Mashup was one example, while the new ability to connect the N-Gage to TV screens and provide Wiimote style games was another.
Vanjoki added that photos can become user-generated assets for already developed games: "This is a massive source of new creativity. Making games where the participant gets excited playing tasks someone else has developed but also developing and creating their own, and challenging others." User-generated content game Yamake does this, he added, as does episodic camera game Dirk Dagger.
He also said that social elements would help draw in more diverse games players – specifically women.
"Most games have been created by men!" he exclaimed, saying that it was time for females to start playing mobile games more via connected games such as Creebies – a virtual pet and social networking title.
Games traditionally, he said, were made by men and are usually "about killing and winning – try and excite a woman with such terms. With women it’s about sharing and intimacy where you can share secrets. what’s better for that than a small mobile device?" New games that extolled social functions were perfect, he added, "for people who don’t want to kill to win – who just want to connect and engage.
"When we really put our thoughts in this arena we are going to see that the other half of the population will play these games keenly "
Of course, his ultimate conclusion pointed towards how Nokia was one of the companies helping to enable this via its N-Gage service and wider web strategy.
N-Gage he described as a "game changing" move, offering a client in the device that provides free trial access to content and connects people and lets them share. "But it’s not just about the client technology, it’s a complete environment. It’s all about context; what I am, who i am, where I am, what I can do."
"Our agenda is a little bigger, it’s not only abut games, it’s about this context in general," he said, referring to Nokia’s previously announced wide-ranging Ovi network, which unites its games, music, movie, maps, photo, web and phone functionality in a web environment.
"It’s part of the plan who our company will go through its next chameleon move, with services software.
"We have been looking at and participating in the games industry for many years. Now we are playing an important part with the launch of Ovi and its games functionality. I think we can create a new business that is unstoppable by monopoly companies. It’s all for the love of gaming."