The Future of Mobile Gaming – Interview With David Kainer

The future of mobile gaming is being shaped by exciting new technologies that allow multiplayer gaming. This article is an interview that shows a discussion between a mobile industry blog F95zone and the Managing Director of Viva La Mobile. It highlights both the current state of the mobile gaming market and looks to the future trend of multiplayer mobile gaming.

Interviewer: Hi David, thanks for taking the time to talk to us. We have been having a lot of fun with Super Puzzle Bobble Multiplayer and can’t wait for Viva to drop another hit! But before we go on, can you please tell the readers a little bit about Viva La Mobile and what you guys do over there?

David: Happy to chat and very happy to hear you enjoyed Puzzle Bobble Multiplayer.

So a little background first. Viva La Mobile is a mobile games developer and publisher based in Sydney which I co-founded in 2003. We have a great deal of experience designing and creating mobile games of all kinds, but our specialty is multiplayer. We pioneered real time multiplayer on mobiles by using the features available on 3G networks and handsets. Early on in our history we decided not to target the ‘low hanging fruit’ end of the market and try to provide something different to mobile gamers. I have always wanted to maintain Viva La Mobile’s position as an innovator rather than a follower. This can be risky in the mobile games industry but it is certainly more fun for product development.

Interviewer: I have a love/hate relationship with the iPhone. I love it because it’s unbelievably cool, obviously, I hate it because it’s not available in Australia and the lack of 3G makes me wonder what Apple were smoking. What is it about the iPhone that makes playing games so fun? Is there a great difference between regular mobile games and iPhone games? How do you think the iPhone will impact the Australian mobile games market when it finally arrives?

David: To be honest I have not really made much effort to look into games on the iPhone, probably because I don’t have one! My view, though, is that the iPhone is little more than a beautiful high end handset with games to suit. This is similar to Nokia’s new N-Gage enabled handsets. The games might be great but at the end of the day it is a small portion of the overall market. So when the iPhone arrives it will definitely capture a share of the market and probably lift the image of mobile phone games in the eyes of consumers which is a good thing. In the end we plan to target it as just another phone amongst the hundreds we already try to reach. As for the lack of 3G, I am still shaking my head in wonder, though I hear it’s coming very soon.

Interviewer: There’s no disputing that Viva La Mobile are the authority on Multiplayer Mobile Games. Will multiplayer mobile games be the future? Will every single mobile game have multiplayer functionality?

David: Multiplayer on mobile has enormous growth potential and I think as the 3G market matures you will find advanced multiplayer games being played in greater and greater numbers due to the faster connectivity and the tendency of 3G users to actually ‘use’ the features of their phones. However I don’t believe that every mobile game will have multiplayer functionality – not every game needs it. I think it is important that a multiplayer game be specifically designed for multiple players in the first place, rather than simply tacking on a multiplayer mode to a game that is obviously designed as single player.

There will always be great single player games that simply aren’t conducive to playing against opponents. But when you have a great game that lets you directly defeat your friends or other players from around the globe it takes the competitive and social aspects of gaming up a level. Mobile phones are a great medium for multiplayer games because they are designed for connectivity and global interaction. At Viva La Mobile we have always maintained that it is more fun to play with someone else than to play with yourself.

Interviewer: I’m a sucker for big-branded mobile games like Iron Man; however I’m often disappointed by the poor gameplay and rushed level design. It seems a lot of these games, especially movie tie-ins, are rushed to production with the idea that customers will pay for anything with a brand attached. Viva La Mobile has been on both sides of this argument, with branded games like Super Puzzle Bobble and non-branded games like Badlands. How important is a brand when it comes to making a game that sells? Are branded games the future? Will there be any room for the little guy?

David: You’re spot on about the movie tie-ins. We continually see big branded titles with second rate game play being rushed to the carrier decks with the assumption that customers will pay for anything with a brand attached. And the sad thing is they often do. This has caused some real problems as consumers aren’t idiots and the poor value for money being provided by some of these big brands is keeping the growth of the industry stagnant. I think the major sales channels (carrier decks) are quite guilty here too as they will push anything with a big brand to the top of the deck at the expense of unbranded titles that may have awesome game-play innovation within. Innovation is not being rewarded and the little guy is finding the going tough. The net effect is that more innovative companies are turning away from the carrier decks and this is probably where the longer term future of the industry lies.

When Viva La Mobile licensed Puzzle Bobble for multiplayer we did so for two main reasons: It is a well recognised games brand with a proven history of success, and it is built on solid addictive game-play. It has been a popular game wherever we launch it, but our non-branded multiplayer titles have also held their own. A title like Badlands has succeeded long term on the merits of its real-time multiplayer innovation – there simply isn’t anything else out there quite like it. So innovative un-branded mobile games can succeed without a brand, but take a lot longer and require a viral buzz.

Interviewer:¬†Aside from Viva’s great selection of games, do you play mobile games yourself? If so, what’s your favourite title right now and why? What elements do you think make up a great mobile game?

David:¬†Part of our business involves the distribution of mobile games from other developers to channels in the Asia-Pacific market, so I do get to play a lot of games as they come in and sometimes I get a little addicted to them and find myself playing them on the bus each morning. I am a sucker for RPGs and Strategy games so in recent times I have been getting into Townsmen 4. It is a great little city building / Management game (Sim City style except with Monks) that is simply well designed for mobile and really addictive. Townsmen is good for short bursts of play which is perfect for mobile. It also doesn’t try to be a PC game and cram more on the screen than is possible.

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