Electronic Arts Inc


Electronic Arts Inc

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Game makers call for mobile shopping revolution - 15th September 2006
(Credit: The Sydney Morning Herald)

The mobile game unit at Electronic Arts Inc. prepared 2000 different versions of the game "2006 FIFA World Cup" when it it launched, but dealing with the particular quirks of individual handsets is not its biggest problem.

Hands down, mobile game makers say they struggle most with getting found on carrier decks - or on-screen menus - that are confusing, space constrained and hard to navigate.

"Most consumers don't know there are over 200 games available on their phones," said Greg Ballard, chief executive of privately held Glu Mobile.

"The deck hasn't changed, but consumers' expectations are very mature. It's clearly keeping some people from buying," Ballard said.

Mobile carriers have cut the number of game makers they work with. Those in the club have to hook buyers with just one line of text that fits across the tiny mobile phone screen.

"Consumers aren't willing to take chances when that's the shopping experience," said Mitch Lasky, head of EA Mobile.

To underscore that point, he added that iconic game "Tetris" outsells other EA Mobile games by more than 3 to 1.

The problem of getting found has been a persistent headache for mobile game makers and other content providers who hawk their wares to the world's 2 billion mobile phone users. And it promises to be exacerbated as television shows and other entertainment get pushed to telephones and hand-held devices.

"Finding mobile content is anything but consumer-friendly," News Corp President Peter Chernin said in his keynote address at the CTIA Wireless I.T. & Entertainment conference in Los Angeles on Wednesday.

Rupert Murdoch's News Corp cares because it recently bought a controlling stake in ringtone provider Jamba and also is working to provide mobile connections for the more than 100 million registered users of internet phenomenon MySpace.

Lasky said the coming flood of new content "is a bit of a concern" and predicted that the next leap forward in mobile will be on the shopping rather than on the content side of the equation.

In the meantime, the No. 1 provider of mobile games in the United States isn't standing still.

It's working on technology that could help make it easier for mobile gamers to search for titles or see demos on their phones. It's also using the internet, television and magazines as promotional tools.

For example, after the launch of its blockbuster "Madden NFL 2007" football game, EA pitched the mobile version of the game by including it in the ESPN news crawl seen by people playing the new console game on Microsoft Corp.'s Xbox Live online game service.

Compared with newbie mobile content providers, game makers have a leg up when it comes to experience, Lasky said.

"The key to understanding mobile is understanding it's a mass-market business. That's what makes it so hard to get (customers)," said Lasky, who noted that his buyers range in age from 15 to 60 and are 55 percent to 60 percent female.

"We've had the luxury of making a lot of the mistakes that the people launching mobile video have yet to make."

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