Mobile phones are moving beyond one-to-one and into one-to-many; and turning into a true socialization channel.
From Today's WSJ (full article - subscription only)
(Mobile) game makers are seeking ways of entertaining users on the go with a new generation of cellphone games that encourage players to interact in the physical world or with other media, such as television.
Many of the latest offerings from the mobile-games business will be on display at CTIA Wireless 2006, a big cellular-phone industry gathering in Las Vegas this week. Among them: PhoneTag, a game from an entertainment company founded by actors Ben Affleck and Matt Damon that is something like capture the flag -- the old Boy Scout game in which players hunt for an opposing team's flag -- on an urban scale, .... a game that will be available in July from Amp'd Mobile Inc.
Here's how it will work: Amp'd Mobile users will be able to invite a circle of friends to join in a game of PhoneTag by sending text invitations to their cellphones, or to participate in a game with strangers. When a game starts, players will be given a target -- another player -- that appears on their cellphone screens as a dot on a virtual map. The game can be played on almost any territory, whether a college campus or a city.
At the same time hunters are pursuing their quarry, they themselves are being hunted by other players. When players get close to their prey, typically within a few yards, they virtually "tag" them hitting a button labeled "capture" on their cellphones. LivePlanet also plans to sell sponsorships that allow, say, Starbucks to turn its cafes into "safe havens" that let players temporarily cloak themselves on their opponents' maps while they're enjoying a latte.
Larry Tanz, chief executive of LivePlanet, stresses the safety of the game, pointing out that players don't need to physically touch someone to capture them. Since all players, strangers or not, will be registered Amp'd subscribers, he says it will be difficult for anyone playing PhoneTag to use a pseudonym and harm another player.
Another company, AirPlay Network Inc., is expected to announce a deal with Sprint Nextel Corp. to bring a range of games to Sprint subscribers that quiz users on the outcomes of televised sports matches, game shows and other live events as they're unfolding.
Mr. Ford says one reason AirPlay's service seems promising is that it piggybacks on a medium -- television -- that is far more widely accepted than games. "It's the first time I've seen my wife say, 'Wow, I can do that,'" he says. AirPlay hopes to build on the increasing popularity of voting on live television events such as "American Idol" through cellphones, in which viewers submit text messages for their favorite contestants.
The company aims to take the phenomenon further by zapping questions to players in the midst of live events, allowing them to, for example, guess the winner of the best actress award during the Oscars. AirPlay expects its game to cost less than $5 a month. Sprint will offer the service beginning in September, at the start of the new football and network television seasons.