Sonic the Hedgehog comes to cell phones
Sonic the Hedgehog hits a whole new market
(IDG) -- Sonic the Hedgehog is coming to cell phones. Sega is releasing its first mobile games in the first quarter of 2001, available at first on a limited group of Motorola phones.
Mobile gaming has been touted as a likely killer app for the wireless market, and in Japan, NTT DoCoMo users have proved that theory true. But to date, games on phones have been simple affairs because of the limited text interface of most phones. Even with WAP, users are limited to scrolling through menus and looking at low-grade graphics.
At first, Motorola's new iDEN phone seems an unlikely choice for the gaming powerhouse. While the iDEN service does provide a data service of 9.6Kbps, it's used primarily by Nextel's 7 million business subscribers. But the phone also is a test bed for Java on mobile devices, such as Java 2 Micro Edition, or J2ME. J2ME turns the phone into more of a minicomputer, providing a platform for numerous applications, including Sega's games. And the new iDEN handset will be the first commercially available one with J2ME. In fact, the iDEN phone will be able to run some 30 applications, from games to tiny e-mail clients to expense reports. Sega has a nonexclusive agreement with Motorola; other manufacturers, including Siemens, are expected to come out with J2ME handsets next year.
Things get really interesting when you have multiplayer, or peer-to-peer games, when users can play each other. Sega's initial games will not be multiplayer: The first game is a simple puzzle called Borkov, with additional games available for purchase and download. But it's planning on releasing multiplayer games in the third quarter of 2001, which will enable users to play each other across Internet-connected Dreamcast game consoles, laptops and wireless phones.
These multiplayer games will be released on iDEN when data rates have improved to 24Kbps, which will be fast enough for the games, according to Peter Aloumanis, Motorola's marketing director for iDEN. "We're just sending very small bits of data across, so the speed will be OK," he says.
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