Posted Mon, Jul 23, 2007 by Boomjack
by John "Boomjack" Hoskin
How cool would it be to have access to the auction house, in-game chat, guild notifications, etc. on your mobile phone? If you are anything like me, then your playing time is precious and for many of you sitting in the auction house trying to figure out what price to put on a stack on 20 wool isn't making the most of your limited entertainment time. If you could manage your auctions or even just chat with your online friends via your cellphone while on the train to work it would free up your play time for the real fun.
Enter Froghop and more specifically Vicky Wu Davis, the CEO and Founder. Vicky recently spent some time with Jeff Woleslagle and I to discuss how MMOGs could be improved with the aid of mobile devices like cell phones, the Nintendo DS, iPhones, etc.
From the Froghop website:
"Virtual world relationships can be just as time-consuming and time-sensitive as those from the real world, which in turn become barriers to participation that persistent world providers must overcome.
Designed to let users of mobile devices manage their virtual world agendas remotely, Froghop addresses these barriers."
As cool as transmedial access sounds to me, and as big an upside as it appears to have, it doesn't seem as small a risk to many developers. There has yet to be a shipped MMOG that uses the Froghop platform. Much like Ageia's PhysX and Vivox who deal with in-game physics and voice chat respectively, developers seem reluctant to be first into a new area, preferring to see how it works out for someone else before taking the leap. It is a catch-22 for the companies producing products that supplement the MMOG market. Until they can prove themselves, nobody will give them a chance to prove themselves.
Players readily understand how better physics will improve their game experience. Players understand how voice chat may improve their game experience, but many don't grasp how having access to their favourite games via a mobile device would indeliby change the way that they play.
"Because of the large budgets and risks involved in creating a game, transmedial (technology) will not be a high priority (for developers) until gamers clamour for it" -- Vicky Wu Davis
I'm sure to receive, as I did when I wrote my original cell phone want list, dozens of e-mails from readers who fear that game addicts will be tethered 24/7 to their computers and mobile devices interacting with some game. First up, does anyone actually know a video game addict? Hearing from your third-cousin twice removed that a person her friend's friend's acquaintance knows of was addicted to video games doesn't count. I don't see any hands up. That's what I thought.
Here's my take on the idea for the few copper pieces that it is worth, mobile device access will actually give gamers more time away from their game. Here's an example, how many times have you logged in to raid with your guild only to wait an hour, possibly hours for everyone to get ready to begin? You were shackled to your monitor, watching, waiting, pleading for the raid group to finally be ready. If you were able to get a notification on your phone that the raid had enough confirmed players and would be starting in 15 minutes you could have spent time with your family, gone fishing, etc., and then just logged in to begin the raid.
Another example for those of you who have never experienced the joy of raiding... You want an item so badly you can feel it's virtual texture in your virtual hands. You sit at your computer outbidding the other player who also yearns for said trinket. The two of you go back and forth, bidding, outbidding, gnashing teeth, until in the end one of you left empty and disappointed while the other prances around the nearest mailbox wearing his golden bandanna of forty squeals. If you had been able to manage your auctions via a mobile device you could have been out partying with your chums, far less concerned if you won or lost the auction. You wouldn't have been shackled to your desk. You could literally have been doing just about anything. Giving you more access to the game actually gives you more time away from the game. It's a thrilling paradox.
Developers are always concerned about the disconnect that happens when a player logs out of their game and returns to their daily routine. Will that player come back? Have we made the game compelling enough that the player will choose to play our game rather than partake in some other activity. Each time a player logs in to play the developer is reintroducing the player to the game. Levels, social networks, expansion packs, adventure packs and patches are a few means used to bring players back to a game. Mobile devices seem like the logical next step to reintroduce players to MMOGs. In fact, they can reintroduce players in a micro-time method that doesn't take away from the rest of the player's life choices. If the saying, "Out of sight, out of mind" is true then mobile devices are the way to keep a game on the user's "HUD" and elevate the likelihood that they will continue subscribing.
MMOGs have thrived due to their social nature. Players are able to interact and communicate with other players who they may never have had the chance to connect with previously. The beauty of a transmedial system is that players who aren't yet comfortable enough to share personal information like a phone number can still communicate via their mobile device, safe behind the software that is acting as the disseminator.
I'm excited about the possibilities of being able to participate in my favourite game even when I don't have access to a computer. I'm sure that some of you are as well.
Is a MMOG coming to your mobile device? Do you want it to? What kinds of game interactions would you like to see on your phone, your DS, your iPhone? What games would you like to include this type of interaction?
Let me know!