Play Games With Your Phone

LOS ANGELES (05/12/2000) - Most people don't consider their cell phone fun, but Nokia Corp. wants to change that. This week at the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) show here, the company launched its Mobile Entertainment Service by demonstrating networked games running on tiny cell phone screens.

While some cell phones already offer games, this service will offer something different: the capability to play against one or more live opponents, says Timo Teimonen, general manager of business development for Nokia's wireless software solutions. You'll be able to set up games with friends, seek out opponents through chat rooms, or compete against a large group on the network.

Anyone who has played interactive games on the Internet understands the thrill of competing against a real but invisible person, he says. It's very different from playing a game against the computer, and for some players it lends a community element.

Phone Trivia Debuts

Early games for the service, such as chess and trivia, will be simple in design. They'll consist of black-and-white bitmaps and simple animation. To play, you'll need the service and a Wireless Application Protocol (WAP) 1.1-capable phone, but it won't have to be a Nokia phone, Teimonen says.

And you won't buy the service directly from Nokia; you'll get it through your cellular service provider. Since it's up to your provider to get on board and offer the service, it's hard to say exactly when it will become widely available, he says.

It's also hard to guess what the pricing might be, although another Nokia spokesperson notes it will likely add US$5 to $10 to your existing monthly fee.

Another uncertainty has to do with connection fees. The early version of the service will require customers to connect every time they make a move, to send it to their opponent. On a metered plan, that could add up to plenty of minutes over the course of a long chess game.

As the cellular network evolves, the service will apply always-on types of technologies that will eliminate the need to connect over and over, Teimonen says. Faster connect speeds will enable more complex games with better graphics -- including some color.

Just don't expect any phone-based game to look as good as today's PC games, he says. Unless you want to carry around an oversized phone, displays must remain small.

Despite such limitations, Nokia expects cellular telephones to become the main way many people connect to the Internet, Teimonen says. The company projects that by 2003, more people will use cell phones than PCs to access the Web.

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