Slate’s Justin Peters has a piece on cell phone games and why they just aren’t what they used to be (namely… free):

In the early part of this decade, cell phones started to become less about the phone call and more about the ring tone. Mobile-gaming types began to realize two things. First, if kids were willing to pay $3 for a 10-second snippet of a 50 Cent song, they’d probably be willing to pay some nonzero amount for a game. Second, consumers aren’t going to buy the cow when they can play Virtual Milkmaid for free. It’s obvious where this line of reasoning leads: Goodbye Tetris, hello $7 Tetris. But Tetris isn’t the industry’s endgame. Established gaming companies—images of a potentially multibillion-dollar market dancing in their heads—have bought out mobile-game studios and set to work manufacturing slimmed-down versions of full-platform games. (Electronic Arts paid $680 million for Jamdat Mobile in December 2005, for instance.) If you’ve felt a primal need to play Age of Empires II in an elevator (just $19.95 on a Windows Mobile Smartphone), your long and burdensome wait is over.

Like Peters, I used to spend hours and hours playing snake on my cell phone while waiting in line, waiting on the elevator, and various other in-between-with-nothing-to-do points in my life. I became quite the enthusiast! Slowly but surely the games stopped being included. My assumption was that, as Peters notes, they simply started wanting money for the games. Here’s the rub, though, I can’t buy games for the phones. I go to the little “store” and it says that none are available. Quite aggravating.

I think that the cell phone people overestimate the flexibility of their product. It’s like when they started trying to sell music (not ring-tones, but DRM-protected music files) at $3 a pop (in part to show Apple that their iTunes were not charging enough). It was a complete flop. As long as we have to change cell phones whenever we change providers, or we are forced to change to an incompatible model or brand when one breaks, the uses of a cell phone as anything but a cell phone are limited. I’m simply not going to invest in something that dies with the device that I am using it with. This is something that the record labels and movie studios are going to have to learn when it comes to selling digital copies of their product. This is especially the case for a cell phone which is likely to be changed out with more frequency than an individual computer or TiVO-like box.

Ever since I got my Pocket PC I’ve taken to using that when I used to use my cell phone. Jawbreaker is the new Mindsweeper (which was the new Tetris). I don’t mind buying applications for it because I won’t have to change Pocket PCs on a corporate whim and I know whatever Pocket PC I get in the future, there is little chance that it will stop working.

I do miss Snake, though.

Category: Theater

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3 Responses to Long Gone Games

  1. Spungen says:

    I was addicted to Snake for a couple years, maybe 2000-2002. That and computer solitaire. I haven’t seen either since then. I could probably find them if I looked, but I don’t have that motivation. When they were handed to me, I played them.

  2. Peter says:

    I have a very basic cellphone. No games, no camera, only a few simple ringtones with no download capability. And that’s just fine by me.

  3. McGehee says:

    I have an LG camera phone from when Cingular had just bought out AT&T Wireless™ but before it was in turn bought out by AT&T Wireless (No Relation)™ — and the only game I have on it is a Java-based Solitaire game from an outfit called GoSub60. It’s the only game I’ve ever played on a phone that I actually enjoy and that I find fairly intuitive to play.

    I haven’t tried shopping for games since the latest buyout though, so…

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