With the latest cult games becoming one of the most sought-after applications in the smartphone app markets, it is interesting to ponder about the origins of mobile phone gaming. The end of the 20th century saw the fall of production costs of cellular handsets and consequent popularity of hand-held devices for communication.
Pre-loaded gaming applications initially categorized as ‘time-wasters’ were limited to dot-matrix graphics because of hardware and software limitations. The early phones with monochrome low-resolution displays, limited battery and storage capacities became one of the hindrances in the gaming segment. Added to this, bandwidth requirements for data transmissions were quite expensive at the users’ end, thereby limiting the consumer base.
The first mobile gaming application was ‘Tetris’ which appeared in 1994 and was consequently incorporated in the Hagenuk MT-2000 which was designed and manufactured in by the Danish tech-giant Hagenuk Corporation. The gameplay was based on rapidly stacking tetranormal shapes and was highly popular.
Mobile phone games attained a new high with the incorporation of Gremlin Industries’ ‘Snake’ which was incorporated in the all the Nokia-manufactured devices from 1997 onwards. The game became one of the most widely played games with more than 350 million devices sporting the game on-board.
A variant of the game was installed in Nokia 6110 which could be played by two players connected over infrared network and boasts of being the first two-player mobile game in the world. Various upgraded versions of the game were introduced in the succeeding devices which eventually lost its box-type graphics and also enhanced its colours. Popularity of this game is such, that even in 2017, HMD reintroduced the legendary Nokia 3110 with the game installed due to popular demand.
Another famous game was named ‘Space Impact’ which was developed by Nokia for J2ME, Symbian S60 and N-Gage platforms. It debuted as a part of in-built games for Nokia 3310 and went on be incorporated in numerous Nokia phones like Nokia 3320, Nokia 5210 and Nokia 6310. The WAP enabled handsets also provided the opportunity to download extra chapters via WAP connections, which stood for Wireless Application Protocol which was a stripped-down version of HTTP and thereby a primitive gateway for linking to the World Wide Web through the cellular devices. By the turn of the millennium, JAVA platform became popular and the games developed around it were more sophisticated than the earlier versions. Games based around sports and racing games became popular, like ‘Need for Speed’, ‘Cricket’ and ‘Soccer’. Few games like ‘Bounce’ and ‘Sudoku’ also made quite a mark in the app-market.
Nokia developed a mobile gaming solution and marketed it as feature phone named N-gage which was launched in October 2003. The concept was to lure users away from gameboys by providing phone functionality but the objective was not achieved because of its design which was not suitable for either purposes.
Few games like JAMDAT Bowling developed by JAMDAT and Siberian Strike developed by Gameloft were never available as pre-installed games in the Indian circuit; the games were available and highly popular in the overseas app-markets but could be downloaded on compatible handsets. Space Invaders was developed by Tomohiro Nishikado in 1978 but made available for mobile phones in the year 2002.
Soon, WAP fell out of choice as it had restricted usage, was not user-friendly and the softwares available were tailored to suit universal standards which often had compatibility issues with individual devices with varied specifications. Over time, softwares developed further and gaming reached new standards with the release of Android and iOS platforms which supported higher resolution displays and used powerful processors for better gaming experience, which we see today


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