With all the talk of iPhone and Android, not to mention N-Gage, it's easy to overlook that your common-or-garden phone remains the main device on which mobile games are bought and played.
The reason's simple. There are millions more of them out there. So while everyone was snotty when Microsoft missed its 20 million licenses target for Window Mobile during its 2008 financial year, it still sold over 18 million in that 12 month period. And that's a lot more than the 13 million iPhones sold to-date.
It's also one of the reasons the platform made an ideal launch environment for US outfit TiltnTwist, which has kicked off its vision of gesture controlled mobile games with four Windows Mobile titles.
We dropped some questions to founders Robert Goodale and Trev Huxley to find out more details.
Pocket Gamer: Your first four launch gesture control games are on Windows Mobile so why did you choose this platform and should we expect to see those games available on other platforms, especially those which have accelerometers, in future?
Trev Huxley: We had to build the 'reference games' on something and noticed that there were very few games available for the Windows Mobile phones. So we felt it was a good niche for us and that, combined with our belief that the number of Windows Mobile phones would grow, convinced us that it was a good idea.
Bob Goodale: When we started this push, the best platform for what we wanted to do was Windows Mobile. At that time, GestureTek's technology was really the only way to go, and Windows Mobile phones at that time seemed to represent the best platform in smartphones to focus on. Since then, this little device called the iPhone has come along, and blown the top off the smartphone market. So as I mentioned above, we are moving as quickly as we reasonably can to be there as well. And of course the same logic applies to Android! We're still doing a little wait and see there, but we're watching closely.
Why did you decided to use the GestureTek camera technology?
TH: There really wasn't anything else at the time. The iPhone and the accelerometer didn't exist and, obviously, the vast majority of phones today have cameras but lack accelerometers so it remains the only technology that works for most phones in the marketplace.
BG: Accelerometers are picking up speed quickly, and within a year or two will be ubiquitous, at least on high-end phones, but for right now, there are not too many that can use it, albeit some very high profile ones.
You two have had interesting careers prior to setting up TiltnTwist, so how did the company come together?
TH: I'd known Bob for a number of years and then had a chance to work with him on a daily basis while consulting for an advertising-supported music start-up. The more I got to know him the more I liked and respected his judgment, character, and intellect. In 1998, he, along with David Bowie and a number of other folks, invested in GestureTek whose technology we use to control our games.
In 2006, he told me that the GestureTek technology could be used on camera phones and proposed building our first game Tilt-A-World. After quite a bit of trial and error we finished a quality game and it was released in October 2006 on Verizon and was actually the world's first gesture controlled game, beating the release of the Wii by two weeks. Tilt-A-World went on to win awards and have a very long run on Verizon. With that initial success we decided to get 'serious' about this and formed TiltnTwist to build more games.
BG: Various projects kept making our paths cross, and we found that we liked working together, and liked each other's sensibilities. I suppose that part of it was that we kept finding each other working on projects that the other one liked that made us think maybe we could work together. For example, we were both consulting to one of the pioneering companies in the area of ad-based online music, which we both found fascinating. Similarly, we both have a long-term friendship with someone who is a CTO at an intriguing hi-tech company and this also helped bring us together.
Finally, what was it about mobile games, in particular, that attracted you?
TH: Hmm, because they're fun. And I get easily bored riding in the subway here in New York City. What else was there to do with a non-working cell phone but play fun games?
BG: The prospect of making mobile games really turned us on. Both of had the same reaction when we first saw gesture control on a mobile device - just short of high-tech delirium. It's just so much fun and so unexpected on this kind of device (at least when we first got going). Now, of course, the iPhone has come along and made this idea much more common (as well as the Wii in a more broad sense) so now it all seems sort of normal. But that was definitely not the case when we first jumped in.
Thanks to Trev and Bob for their time.
You can also check out our more game-focused interview with the pair on our sister site Pocket Gamer.