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A Brief History of Mobile Games: Introduction

A Brief History of Mobile Games: Introduction
Trying to write a history of something as young and fragile as mobile games may seem like an odd, or thankless, task, but mobile games have changed, evolved and matured in an amazingly short period of time and I was lucky enough to be involved back at the beginning.

Of course, the problem with digital content is that it can so easily be lost. There's simply no way of playing many of the first mobile games anymore. They may have started a revolution but are now lost to the mists of time, trapped on obsolete handsets, the servers that ran them long since closed down, switched off and sold on.

Let's be honest though, does it really matter? A few people might feel a lump in their throats when you mention Alien Fish Exchange or Lifestylers, but the majority of people don't care. These are games that looked primitive even when they were made.

But any industry is driven as much by where it came from as where it's going, and any good history should tell you about what's happening now, through what happened in the past. For example, many of the companies we talk about today arose in those heady days at the turn of the millennium where the dot-com boom was still just about in boom and people really did believe the mobile internet would change the world.

Looking back at what worked and failed at the dawn of the mobile games industry should provide us with some of the best clues about how this market will evolve. For example, talk of triple play – mobile, web and interactive TV – might be big news now but companies were also attempting it back in 2000.

So over the next two weeks I'll take you through my history of the mobile games industry. It's not a complete history of course. Think of it as The Wright Stuff's Brief History of Mobile Games – focused on Fife, the UK, the US and Europe.

There will be tears of joy, pain, laughter and maybe even the odd inaccuracy – feel free to add your comments. But you'll also learn about games you never knew existed, where some of the companies that now dominate this industry came from, and what silly names they all had back in the day…

A Brief History of Mobile Games: 1990s - Snake and WAP
A Brief History of Mobile Games: 2000 - JAMDAT, Gameloft and WAP games
A Brief History of Mobile Games: 2001 - Vivazzi, Picofun and Riot-E
A Brief History of Mobile Games: 2002 - Java, BREW and Space Invaders
A Brief History of Mobile Games: 2003 - Colour phones and N-Gage
A Brief History of Mobile Games: 2004 - JAMDAT, IOMO and EA Mobile
A Brief History of Mobile Games: 2005 - Gizmondo, Tetris and Glu
A Brief History of Mobile Games: 2006 - 3D, iFone and Gizmondo
A Brief History of Mobile Games: 2007/8 - New N-Gage and iPhone


After 12 years in the games industry, the last eight as head of production at I-play, Chris Wright finally escaped. He now runs his own consultancy focusing on casual games. He can be contacted at chris [at] gamesconsultancy.com. All opinions expressed are the author's own.

After 12 years in the games industry, the last eight as head of production at I-play, Chris Wright finally has escaped. He now runs his own consultancy focusing on casual games. He thinks his greatest achievement is being called a 'veteran of the mobile games industry'. His greatest regret is not completing Gears of War, even on the easiest setting.

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