30 September 2006

eGames Workshop Program

The free, full-day eGames Workshop program which will run at the Middle East College of Information Technology on Saturday 9 December has just been formalized with staff from De Montfort University. Starting at 9:00am, this is how the day will be structured:

Thirty (30) minute introduction to the day's sessions and general background presentation and discussion on game development. This session will involve the entire group of attendees (100 places). The opening session will be led by Michael Powell.

Attendees will be split into 2 groups of 50 attendees for 3 sessions of 90 minutes each.

Group A: Practical session on Drawing for Gaming: Led by Chris Hinton

Group B: Storyboarding and Narrative session: Led by Michael Powell


Group A: Practical session on Animation: Led by Steve Abrahart

Group B: Practical session on Drawing for Gaming: Led by Chris Hinton


Group A: Storyboarding and Narrative session: Led by Michael Powell

Group B : Practical session on Animation: Led by Steve Abrahart

Mobile Gaming Market Booms

"Mobile gaming is finally beginning to come of age," claims Mohammed Al Maskari, Director General, Knowledge Oasis Muscat and organizer of eGames 2006. Advances in handset technology, such as large colour screens, larger memory capacity and compact physical size, in addition to developments in 3G GPRS, EDGE, Java and BREW look set to enable the market to realise the potential of mobile handsets as fully-fledged gaming devices.

Recent reports suggest that the mobile games market grew by 78% in 2005 alone. "With console gaming, customers are obliged to make the commitment to buy a fairly expensive piece of equipment. But the beauty of mobile is that we've a global audience that already owns the hardware in the form of their handset," commented Al Maskari. Indeed, global mobile games revenues are expected to reach RO4.3 billion (US$11.2 billion) by 2010 and mobile device users are projected to reach over 2 billion by the end of 2006. It's clear that mobile gaming is definitely not a market to be ignored.

Mobile Gaming Is Different
What makes mobile gaming so different from any other type of console based gaming is the fact that the ‘potential mobile gamer’ already owns the platform on which they can play the game. The sheer penetration of game enabled devices, which stands at 40% of the 2 billion devices worldwide today, set to grow to 97% of all mobile phones sold in 2008 - means that mobile gaming is highly accessible. Compare this to videogames where over the past 25 years 500 million consoles have been sold, compared to the 600 millon mobiles sold just in the past 12 months. The figures are staggering and so are the opportunities.

Who's Playing?
But who's playing mobile games and how are they playing? Figures reveal that more women than men are playing games on handsets. When you compare this to the typical console player, who is male, aged between 14-24 - there is an obvious contrast. When we look at the behaviour of the average mobile gamer, we find that games are played in short bursts of time - it’s a virtual snack in comparison to the four-course banquet offered by the consoles.

Let's briefly consider one of the world's most dynamic gaming markets, Japan. In fact, when it comes to mobile gaming, the Japanese are at the bleeding edge. Only a few years ago, nearly every twenty-something Tokoyo commuter spent their entire journey sending e-mails on their phones, now a healthy proportion of them are playing mobile games. Most of these are variations on classic board games like Go and Chess, card games and the occasional dialogue choice driven adventure title, a genre much beloved in the Far East. The Japanese mobile casual games market is thriving and in time we should expect to see the same boom in Oman.

However, despite the fact that nearly half all men and women have played a game on their mobile, it's estimated that only 5% of these people are downloading games - this shows the incredible potential for the industry. Demand is there and people are playing, but as yet the majority haven't embraced the concept of downloading quality content available. We need to figure out a way to get folk downloading – an issue that will undoubtedly be addressed at eGames.

Growing Fast
The mobile gaming sector is the fastest growing segment of the gaming market. It's more than evident that the opportunities are there for those who understand the dynamics of this growing industry. The barriers to entry are low, but to succeed, industry stakeholders require the knowledge and recognition that this isn't the console industry and that the end user demands a very different gaming experience in terms of access and playability. Understanding and acceptance of these factors will ensure that telco operators, content providers and mobile manufacturers continue to drive this burgeoning industry on and up and its true potential is realised.

29 September 2006

De Montfort and Coventry Workshop Presenters

Staff from De Montfort University (www.dmu.ac.uk) and the University of Coventry staff(www.coventry.ac.uk/newthinking/html/serious.htm) will be delivering the eGames pre-Conference Workshop at the Middle East College of Information Technology (www.mecit.edu.om) Saturday 9 December on KOM (www.kom.om). Here are the bio details of the four Workshop presenters:

David Wortley is the recently appointed Director of the Serious Games Institute (SGI) at Coventry University, a regional and national hub for e-games technologies applied to non-leisure/entertainment applications such as e-learning, simulation and marketing. David's career has largely been in the commercial sector with British Telecom, IBM and his own strategic technology consultancy.

Before accepting the post at Coventry, David spent a year at De Montfort University developing the New Technology Initiative Creative Industries Centre for Knowledge Exchange. David has spoken at many International Conferences and is on the organising committee for Digital Earth in San Francisco in June 2007.

Steve Abrahart is the Senior Lecturer in Animation Design at De Montfort University (DMU); he teaches animation and software skills in various packages including Autodesk Maya, 3D studio Max, Combustion, and Adobe Premiere. His multi-disciplined professional career spans art, design, programming, games art and animation, in 2004 he joined De Montfort University to help build and run the 3D animation design course and in 2005 he began the visual effects module for the course. His specialist subject area is modelling and animation and his commercial interests involve building aircraft for flight simulators.

Chris Hinton is Subject Leader for Multimedia Design and Course Leader for Interactive Design BA (Hons) in the Faculty of Art and Design at De Montfort University. His background is graphic design and he has worked for national and international design leaders in the UK, Germany, France and the Netherlands. After a post graduate degree in Multimedia Design in 1997, he joined North Oxfordshire College as Course Leader for Graphic Design and Illustration with special responsibility for developing interactive media as part of the higher education curriculum and in 2000 he joined the multimedia design academic team at DMU. He is the university’s country specialist for China and Hong Kong where he is visiting lecturer at Southern Yangtze University and the Union University of Beijing. His specialist subject area is interactive graphics and interface design for broadcasting.

Michael Powell is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Imaging and Communication Design at De Montfort University. Michael holds a BA in Photography from Trent Polytechnic and an MA in Multimedia Design from De Montfort. Michael has published widely on gaming and animation.

27 September 2006

eGames Workshop Fully Booked

Computer games are getting very serious. Not just as a popular entertainment format, but also as a powerful tool for education, training, public policy, healthcare, security, simulation and many other applications which fall outside the entertainment software norm.

Working alonside Oman Mobile; Sun Microsystems; Java; Infocomm Group; Middle East College of Information Technology (MECIT) and the UK’s De Montfort University, Knowledge Oasis Muscat (KOM) has designed day two of the eGames conference to provide attendees with a broad overview of what serious games are and can be. “Sessions on day two are designed primarily for potential customers (corporate, government and military) and members of the game development and academic communities that are aiding in the production of serious game projects,” said Mohammed Al Maskari, Director General, KOM and organizer of eGames.

"The goal of the eGames conference is to foster a global community of practitioners and customers around the idea of serious games. Our job is to promote the use of games, game developers and game technologies to domains outside of game-based entertainment to seek breakthroughs in learning, healthcare, training and more. In simple terms, eGames is designed to put a face to Oman’s emerging gaming sector,” remarked Al Maskari.

On the eve of the conference (Saturday 9 December), KOM will hold a full-day gaming workshop at MECIT at which staff from De Montfort University’s Faculty of Art and Design will deliver workshops in animation; drawing; storyboarding; and narration. “The entire workshop was sold out in less than 24 hours of announcing it, we were flooded with e-mails requesting workshop tickets” remarked Mulki Al Hashmi, eGames Co-ordinator, adding: “We were totally bowled over by the response, it clearly shows how important gaming is to the Omani youth.”

Gaming in the Oil Business

Canada’s Edmonton Journal recently carried an article called 'Serious Games' for rig hands. It describes a serious game being designed for rig hands to train them in something called being crowned. In this case you don’t get to be king. According to the journal, "It’s a bad mistake that’s easy to make. Just push a lever too far on one of the 1,001 portable, truck-mounted service rigs in use to maintain western Canadian 183,000 producing oil and gas wells. A big diesel engine roars. Tonnes of machinery and steel pipe rush upwards and smash into the crown of the derric. At worst a lethal hail of metal crashes down." A 23 employee firm, Terris Hill Productions (http://www.terris-hill.com) is fielding the new serious game and is already supported by one third of the western Canadian service rig fleet. With big guns like Imperial Oil and Talisman Energy supporting the project as well as open invitations to show the finished project in both the US and China, Terris Hill Productions could have a hit on its hands, and at the same time save lives.

25 September 2006

Serious Games Balance French Budget

We've just spotted a BBC story (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/4946496.stm) about a new game from the French Budget Minister, called Cyberbudget. In the game, players are tasked with the fun filled pleasures of balancing the French Budget. Similar programs have been used in the US on a State level, but this is the first time we've heard of an entire country handing over its budget to gamers. While it would be interesting if the best gamer won the Budget Minister’s job the game is designed to instill empathy in the player for what the Budget Minister has to do to balance France's budget. Players will have to make decisions about increasing taxes or closing down schools, sports facilities and state-run Old People's Homes. Once the player has their budget ready they can even present it to a virtual parliament for approval. With the capacity for 10,000 concurrent players hopefully someone will figure out how to balance the budget, cut taxes and save the schools.

24 September 2006

The Mobile Charts

According to the UK’s ELSPA (www.elspa.com) and compiled from information supplied by: 3, O2, Orange,T-Mobile and Vodafone, here are the UK’s current top 10 Java mobile downloads:



23 September 2006

MECIT and OER Support eGames

It was announced today that the Middle East College of Information Technology - MECIT - (www.mecit.edu.om) will sponsor eGames 2006, scheduled to be held 10 – 11 December at the Crowne Plaza Hotel, Muscat. "We're delighted to welcome MECIT as partners – they're a forward thinking college which runs some excellent programs in the creative industries sector – gaming being one of them. We expect to attract a large number of undergraduates to the free, full-day pre-conference gaming workshop which will be held on Knowledge Oasis Muscat," said Ibtisam Al Faruji, Head of Marketing, KOM (www.kom.om). The workshop will be delivered by Chris Hinton, Michael Powell and Steve Abrahart from De Montfort University's Faculty of Art & Design a leading centre for gaming in the UK – sessions will cover animation, storyboarding, narrative and drawing.

"By holding the pre-Conference Workshop we're creating an unique venue for young game developers to better understand their craft, market challenges and business opportunities," said Al Faruji. She added: "Working together with well respected gaming industry leaders the Workshop is part of KOM's objective to help promote the uptake and growth of Oman's domestic gaming industry."

On the conference, organiser Mohammed Al Maskari, Director General, KOM (pictured) said: "We feel that eGames is well timed, happening at this rapidly moving point in the gaming industry as new gaming consoles and gaming enabled mobile phones hit the Omani consumer market and when, in the sultanate, many experts believe video and mobile gaming to be worth more than cinema, video and CD sales." Maskari added: “What I personally find really exciting is this conference places us right at the centre of the global gaming market and it’s happening here in Muscat. This is wonderful, don’t you think?”

In addition to MECIT's support, eGames 2006 has received the backing of Oman Economic Review (www.oeronline.com) which will act as the event's strategic media partner. Commenting on their involvement, Sandeep Sehgal, General Manager, United Media Services SAOC said: "As a leading and highly respected regional business magazine, our association with eGames 2006 is fuelled by our interest in mobile entertainment and eGames offers us an excellent opportunity to pursue this interest."

19 September 2006

Sun Backs eGames 2006

It was announced today that Knowledge Oasis Muscat (KOM) will host the 2nd eGames Conference, 9 - 11 December at the Crowne Plaza Hotel. “We’ve carried out extensive research on the mobile gaming market and it’s evident that it’s booming. Over the next few years people will be spending thousands of Rials to play games on their mobiles,” says Ibtisam Al Faruji, Head of Marketing at KOM.

Mobile games have gained worldwide popularity for providing personal entertainment on the go and are seen by many as the next big thing. "2005 – 06 has been a very good period for mobile gaming. It’s estimated that the global market for mobile entertainment will be worth a stunning US$42.8 billion by 2010,” said Al Faruji. This growth is excellent news for mobile phone companies, which are always on the look out for innovative ways to generate revenue from their subscriber base. With the number of mobile gamers around the world expected to reach 220 million by 2009, the mobile gaming business is projected to expand to higher levels and constitute a bigger portion of the profit pie for telcos and handset makers.

"With 2006 being a year of growth for the industry, this is a must attend three-day event for all game industry professionals involved in mobile and serious gaming,” said Mulkie Al Hashmi, eGames Co-ordinator and a member of the KOM Marketing Team. "The conference agenda is built around industry leaders presenting the latest research, marketing strategies and the all important case studies for a true view from the trenches. Attendees will learn how industry leaders have dealt with some of the same challenges they currently face, and which solutions worked and which didn't."

The three-day event will focus on mobile and serious gaming and is supported by Sun Microsystems; Java; Infocomm Group; Oman Economic Review and the Faculty of Art and Design at De Montfort University in the UK. Graham Porter, Marketing Manager, MENA Region, Sun Microsystems (pictured) and a supporter of eGames said: “Judging from our experience of eGames 2005 this is more than just a sea of faces in a conference hall – it’s a major learning and networking opportunity for those in the games business. KOM's highly acclaimed conference format gives attendees ample opportunity to meet key industry figures, learn the latest techniques and technologies and build relationships with peers and industry leaders.”

“In addition to the two-day conference we’re also running a full-day, free pre-conference gaming workshop at KOM on Saturday 9 December – this high-octane workshop is limited to 100 attendees and will cover storyboarding, character design and development, animation, narrative storytelling and visual effects. We’re very excited about the entire programme,” commented Al Faruji.

16 September 2006

Back Catalogue of eGames Interviews

Here are five interviews we carried out with presenters from eGames 2005 - we thought they were worth digging up and sharing with you.

Interview #1: Karim Rahemtulla, MD, Infocomm Group

1. Where’s mobile gaming headed?
The mobile games market will be over US$1 billion in 2005 and probably US$3 billion in 2006. The market’s getting closer to video games, this means simultaneous releases with the original game (game available on PS2, Xbox, Mobile..). It also means that the number of game versions will go on increasing, because of the technology fragmentation and lastly it means that the development time will dramatically increase because handsets are more and more powerful – for example, 3D capabilities and many different engines. UMTS (Universal Mobile Telecommunications System) networks will also bring a lot to connected games if it brings in terms of speed and time latency what it’s expected to bring and if there’s harmonization of multiplayer platforms.

2. What type of future has mobile gaming?
Does it have a future? It is the future. I don't think we've really seen any mobile games yet, I mean there are lots of games available for your phone, but they’re all cut down versions of games you see on your Playstation. In the not too distant future, we’ll start seeing games that simply couldn't exist on a Playstation or PC, games that use the phone's camera or are based on the physical location of you and your phone.

3. Is there a difference between the games played by youngsters and adults?
There are titles in the market that appeal to everyone from early teens to adults. Teenagers are of course very much in tune with the latest movies and music scene, and there are plenty of games and downloads based on these trends. Young adults are likely to enjoy the arcade classics, sports and action games, as well as puzzles and quizzes like The Weakest Link. A clearer segmentation is the male/female divide. Action, adventure, sports and arcade games are more likely to be played by boys and young men, whereas we’re seeing that puzzle, romance and quiz games appeal to a more evenly balanced male/female user base.

4. When the mobile gaming business kicks off in Oman, how will people pay for downloadable games?
In time - and judging from how things work elsewhere in the world - I imagine that the Oman-based tech savvy consumer will be given a wide choice of how to purchase Java games. They’ll probably be able to buy the games in a box from retail stores and pay up front; they’ll be able to buy them from mobile network operators and have the game charge added to their monthly bill; and they’ll be able to select them from a games page on a web portal or magazine and pay for them via premium rate phone line or SMS.

5. What’s involved in producing a mobile phone game?
The stages involved in developing a wireless game don't differ too much from those associated with PC and console development, but the work is compressed into a much shorter cycle - typically three months. One of the biggest challenges in developing games for wireless platforms is appreciating the techniques essential for writing compelling games on low memory embedded systems. This has implications for every stage of the development cycle from the reuse of early design art to the number of objects used in an engineer’s J2ME code. Of course, another issue that's unique to wireless gaming development is the number of ports a development team has to make of each title to deliver it to each carrier's portfolio of handsets. With games as small as 64K targeting such low memory phones you can often be looking at a significant rewrite to achieve a quality port.

6. Where’s the innovation in mobile gaming?
For wireless gaming the arrival of colour screens coupled with higher bandwidth speeds i.e. 2.5G, 3G and 4G has been a big market driver. As screen resolution improves, system memory increases and embedded processors get faster, the opportunities for enhancing the gaming experience and growing the market rise significantly. Handset manufactures recognise wireless gaming as a significant market and the form factor of many new handsets are being adapted for easier game play. On the local scene, we’ll see Oman-based telco operators making significant steps forward in attracting wireless gamers through the availability of new content services and higher data rates .

7. Tell us about e-Games
That’s fairly simple. In my mind, e-Games is all about bringing together people from various parts of the World that love to make and play games so they can meet in person, form alliances and help each other. Being the first event of its kind in the Middle East we’re proud to be associated with the event and are really looking forward to it.

Interview #2: Mohammed Al Ghassani, Deputy CEO, PEIE

1.How’s the mobile gaming industry developing?
On the gaming front, pundits estimate that the mobile gaming industry is growing at a compound rate of around 150% a year. I should think this trend will contine for another 2 - 3 years after which it’ll stabilize. For every player in this particular value chain, there are tremedous growth opportunities. However, growth will be governed by the hardware technology in mobiles. If mobiles can meet computing power offered by the specialized gaming devices, then that would open up the doors of the core gaming industry, which is currently slated to be a trillion dollar industry. Companies like Nokia have already started doing that with "N-Gage". This is a phone whose ergonomics and processors have been optimized for handheld gaming. While that’s a great initiative, it’s still got a way to go to compare with a gaming platform like GameBoy.

From a business perspective, mobile games will contribute sizeable revenues to mobile operators. Data services are the future and I think Gulf-based telcos recognize that. Around the world, we’re witnessing large technology investments by mobile operators, high-end handset released by equipment vendors, stabilized mobile community portals and support to mobile developers who are creating a closely coupled network, one that’s delivering high values to end users.

Mobile advertising via mobile games is another boom area. Now, is anybody thinking about that in the Gulf? I haven’t seen it yet. On the bigger stage, the entertainment industry has already started investing in mobile games as a promotional channel. For example, film trailers, ring tones etc. This is just the beginning. In the future, you’ll certainly see mobile games being used as powerful mass communication tools.

2.How do you see mobile games developing?
Mobile hardware technology is advancing at a significant clip and I expect it to follow Moore's Law. If I’m right in this regard, we should see some really powerful gadgets capable of handling very high-end 3D graphics and audio. The way the mobile gaming industry has evolved I can see more demand giving rise to smarter and better products. If manufacturers produce devices that offer a powerful computing platform that run compelling content, then that’ll accelerate acceptance from end users.

3.What’s your advice to young game developers?
From a Gulf perspective, it's a great time to be in the market, as it’s just growing and demand is there for better games and more variety. It’ll all depend on how the developer positions him/herself in the value chain. My advice for developers, build a niche in the market and have a well-defined line of offerings.

4.e-Games has a sesion on Education and Gaming – Why’s that?
It would seem that many schools in the Gulf are using a pre-information-society model in teaching. Kids are playing games when they aren’t in school, and they go from this digital environment into the classroom, and they're suddenly in Dickens. It would appear that the teaching profession doesn’t know what games are, or how to use them to their advantage.

The gaming industry makes more money than Hollywood, which means that millions of people are paying substantial amounts of money for games that take on average 50 to 100 hours to complete - roughly the amount of time spent in one semester of college courses. If a young person is going to spend RO20 on a game, yet they won't take 50 minutes to learn algebra, we need to know why.

Research shows that people learn best when they’re entertained, when they can use creativity to work toward complex goals, when lesson plans incorporate both thinking and emotion and when the consequences of actions can be observed. Those needs, perhaps aren't met in classrooms, where students are often given lists of facts, told to memorize them and expected to regurgitate them in exams.

Video games, on the other hand, immerse people in worlds and make them rely on problem-solving skills to reach defined goals. In a well-designed game, people can even learn new skills and see the consequences of their knowledge, or their ignorance, as their scores climb or fall. Assessment is a cinch - every keystroke and high score is recordable. People have always been intimidated by new technologies, I think we need to appreciate that games aren’t going away and we should build good things out of their potential. Tim Price-Walker’s session will address these issues, a topic that should be of real interest and value to Gulf-based educators.

Interview #3: Tim Price-Walker, Business Development Manager- Schools, Immersive Education Ltd, UK

1. What got you into gaming?
If I think far enough back in my life, my trusty Commodore Vic 20 was the computer that really started me off in gaming, playing all of those hi-tech, magnetic tape loaded games.However, the games that really got me hooked was Manic Miner for the Spectrum 48K and a little more recently the original Doom game there was nothing like pairing up with a gaming partner at night, turning the light out and waiting for something to jump out at you from the screen!

2. If you could be one gaming character who would it be and why?
A Sim in Sim City what an amazing place to be!

3. Do you think that gaming going mainstream has had a positive or negative impact on the industry?
I work for a software company (Immersive Education) that utilises games technology in education gaming going mainstream has helped us as a company to embrace gaming as a tool to learn I have seen the results of some of our games-styled software at work in the classroom with students I have seen it support learning of difficult topics (such as Shakespeare); support special needs education; embrace inclusive learning; encourage creativity in lessons as well as being extremely motivating!

4. Who's your favourite developer/publisher and why?
I have to support our technical guys at Immersive Education forging the links between education and games technology is no easy challenge what do you leave out to keep teachers happy but what do you put in that motivates students? But then I am biased.

5. Do you feel that gender affects the way we play games? Are there fundamental differences that affect not only what we play, but how we play?
Working at Immersive Education, I have been observing how children use games-styled software in the classroom to learn and I do believe there are subtle differences in how students use our software, but generally both genders see positive improvements in motivation. It's not only gender but also different age groups and ability groups that also provide an insight into how we play games and it's a dynamic state of affairs.

Our software was first designed for 11-19 age range in 2001 now one of our best titles using the same software interface is designed for students age 5 and 6. For example, In Sheffield, UK, a school reported that a class of difficult students with poorly behaved boys became so addicted to our Kar2ouche storyboarding software (an English lesson learning Shakespeare) that the teacher had to physically prise them away from the computers at the end of the lesson. In previous lessons it was stated that it was difficult to maintain their presence in the classroom.

6. What are your thoughts on the greater development costs needed to produce even a marginal game and the impact this has on backyard developers?
Mmm.... getting a bit like Hollywood here. I just hope it does not stifle creativity.

7. What is your first gaming memory?
Desperate trying get Manic Miner to load from magnetic tape recorder plugged into my Spectrum 48K using those tape recorders, the first frustratingly attempt never seemed to work!

8. What do you think will be the next revolution in game design? A truly 3D controller? Greater online capabilities? Player created content?
I am someone who always thought that fantastic graphics was the route to addiction in games. Recently my view of this has changed with the advent of on-line gaming. I believe that greater online capabilities will be the way forward for games in the future. From an educational perspective, I perceive that more on-line community learning combined with rich graphic environments really will be the way forward in school learning.

9. Can you foresee a day when the gaming industry as a whole, finally recognizes the female gamer as an equal to her male counterpart and not just a plaything to help sell games?
Yes, definitely and it's going to happen sooner than you think. I have just been training some of those 5 - 6 year olds and half of them are girls.

10. What is your favourite game genre?
Go and see the trailers on eve-online.com then you'll know my favourite game genre.

11. Do you prefer PC or Console gaming and why?
PC my PC is everything.

12. How important is the 'social' aspect in games (not just online games - getting your friends round for a bit of console head-to-head, LAN gaming, or just watching over your shoulder and giving suggestions)? How can this social aspect be encouraged through games design?
Social aspect is really important our educational software works best when children collaborate around a PC - discussing how characters backgrounds or props should look in our Kar2ouche storyboarding software. Some the best storyboards created by children are where more than one student is involved. Therefore, our software design is carefully aware of this need to encourage social interaction. Also, IT resources in many UK schools are still limited few schools have a ratio of one computer to one child. Therefore, our software is designed for lots of different classroom scenarios e.g. Using an interactive whiteboard to teach to whole groups.This shared learning social experience is starting to gain momentum with on-line gaming environments.

13. Will game piracy ever be defeated? Technology supporting 'gaming as a service,' like Valve Software's Steam system is on the rise and is beating back pirates. In the Gulf we've organizations such as the Arabia Anti Piracy Association who are working hard to stamp out piracy. What could be done to further support anti-piracy initiatives?
In schools, our MediaStage software (virtual 3D production studio for teaching Media Studies) sells for RO255 for a single user licence - we operate a system where customers have to contact us by telephone in order to unlock their software this helps us to track our customers and be able to recognise illegal or illegitimate use of our software. Luckily schools.

Interview #4: Tim Stokes, Marketing & Sales Manager, Sony Computer Entertainment Europe (SCEE)

1. What got you into gaming?
A competitive nature.

2. If you could be one gaming character who would it be and why?
My pseudonym in Tiger Woods Golf 2005 – I would love to have a -15 handicap!

3. Do you think that gaming going mainstream has had a positive or negative impact on the industry?
Certainly a positive impact, however most gamers still tend to be male and aged between 14-34 years old. Compare that with other entertainment industries and there is still a long way to go to becoming truly mainstream.

4. Who’s your favourite developer/publisher and why?
I really loved the first Tomb Raider games on PlayStation 1 developed by Core Design – but to tow the company line I really have to say Sony Computer Entertainment Europe, don’t I?

5. Do you feel that gender affects the way we play games?
Are there fundamental differences that affect not only what we play, but how we play? Obviously, there is a difference in the type of games that appeal to different genders, but I don’t think this really affects the way the games are played. Both genders are equally competitive!

6. What are your thoughts on the greater development costs needed to produce even a marginal game and the impact this has on 'backyard developers’.
Gaming is becoming big business and generally similar to other entertainment industries there is a link between investment and return.

7. What is your first gaming memory?
Donkey Kong on Nintendo Game & Watch.

8. What do you think will be the next revolution in game design? A truly 3D controller? Greater online capabilities? Player created content?
I strongly believe to take gaming truly mass market, gamers should be able to determine different outcomes in games dependent on their actions, so they feel that they are really playing the part of the main character in the story. This has happened to a degree with some games such as The Sims and The Getaway: Black Monday, but there is still some way to go.

9. How important is the 'social' aspect in games (not just online games - getting your friends round for a bit of console head-to-head, LAN gaming, or just watching over your shoulder and giving suggestions)? How can this social aspect be encouraged through games design?
Very important. To really make gaming a mass market form of entertainment we have to remove the perception that gaming is just for 14 year old boys locked away in their darkened bedroom. Personally, one of the greatest pleasures I get out of gaming is playing sports games against a friend(s), the more the merrier; try out doubles in Smash Court Tennis, a 4 on 4 match in This Is Football or a 100m sprint in Athens 2004 on dancemats!

10. Will game piracy ever be defeated? Technology supporting 'gaming as a service,' like Valve Software's Steam system, is on the rise and is beating back pirates. In the Gulf we’ve organizations such as the Arabia Anti Piracy Alliance who are working hard to stamp out piracy. What could be done to further support anti-piracy initiatives?
Generally, in the region we need greater recognition from the local authorities that game piracy is a crime. Most governments do not recognise piracy as their problem or that their country is any worse, when in actual fact their local economies are also losing out due to losses of import duties, distribution margins and marketing investments.

Interview #5: Petr Hosek - Senior Sales Manager, Multimedia, Nokia Middle East and Africa

1. Petr thanks for taking the time to talk with us. How did the idea for N-Gage initially come about?
Nokia’s vision is Life Goes Mobile. This means that anything that people do today stationery, whether this is communications, business, general commerce, Internet browsing or gaming will eventually become mobile enabled.

The N-Gage was conceptualized several years before launch. We saw how successful online gaming was becoming and real opportunities for ourselves, game developers and for service providers through online mobile gaming using GPRS. The N-Gage was therefore designed to create a new market for gamers on the move.

We now have a strong product, a huge portfolio of games and unrivaled technology and connectivity options to create a rich experience.

2. Who is the N-Gage QD primarily aimed at: gamers or people who want a flash mobile phone?
The N-Gage QD is optimized for mobile online gaming. It has an ergonomically designed form factor, with features such as raised buttons and a large screen to enable a full gaming experience. Its connectivity options – Bluetooth and GPRS are suitable for competitive multiplayer gaming allowing up to 8 persons to compete on certain games.

3. You're looking for new titles for N-Gage. What do you look for in new developers?
A real innovation and a commitment to mobile online gaming. N-Gage QD incorporates Nokia’s Series 60 software platform, which is the most popular smart phone software in the world with 84% market share (Canalys, Sept 2004). Using free to download software from www.forumnokia.com, anyone can begin producing software for the N-Gage. These can then be distributed through retail outlets or directly for download over the web through sites such as
www.softwaremarket.com. Mobile gaming is a new and open space and we welcome any and all developers to contribute to providing rich experiences for gamers.

4. What sort of size development teams are making N-Gage games right now (as opposed to ports)?
All sizes from companies such as Electronic Arts who have entire units developed, to smaller, single-person development hot shops.

5. How about genres? Does N-Gage presently have preferences that way?
Any and all games are supported by N-Gage, from simulations such as the highly acclaimed The Sims, strategy games such as Worms, arcade games such as Colin Mcrae Rally, platform games including the Tom Clancy portfolio of titles, and first person shoot-em ups such as Pathway to Glory.

6. Mobile phone games can be basic, so what do you see being possible in future, say two years from now?
Please try the N-Gage QD and its multiplayer games – you will see that the quality and sophistication of gaming is comparative in experience to that of a Play Station or PC game.

7. Where do we stand on Arabizing games for the mobile phone?
Anyone can develop N-Gage games, as described earlier. The development and roll-out of Arabic titles, depends solely on the development house themselves. We encourage all companies to offer Arabic versions of their games – presently however, there are no Arabic gaming titles.

8. How can Nokia encourage and help develop the Middle East’s gaming industry?
We have free software available from Forum Nokia and an easy to use marketplace for trade at Software Market. Every element is there to support a fledgling industry in the Middle East.

9. If you were to build your dream mobile phone game what would it do?
It would combine the graphics of Pathway to Glory with massively multiplayer capabilities or an landline connection with the depth of X-Men legends and the fun of Worms of the Sims (all games which are available on the N-Gage QD).

10. Finally, what do you think the outlook is for mobile gaming?
Positive. This is a new market which is growing with new entrants expected throughout 2005. With the advent of 3G, more players will be able to compete together creating the opportunity for extended multi-player adventures.