Editor's Corner: Game Developers Conference 2006

Electronic Arts SVP Mitch Lasky (formerly the chief of JAMDAT), opened GDC Mobile yesterday with a great keynote speech. EA is the 800-lb. gorilla of the PC and console gaming world, and the company's recent acquisition of JAMDAT makes it clear that EA plans to be a major player in the mobile gaming market. EA plans to release classic mobile games like Tetris and ports of popular PC and console games. For example, EA intends to release a mobile version of Spore, the anticipated new game from Sim City creator Will Wright.

Lasky bluntly told the audience of game developers that "there are too many bad games" being offered by carriers. He fears that an oversupply of poor games could lead to an "Atari 2600" type of problem that could turn off consumers. He blamed carriers for accepting too many games into their deck. The commentary during the carrier's panel later that day suggests that too many choices and inconsistent quality hurts sales and angers customers. Lasky also challenged the mobile gaming industry on the lack of connected, multiplayer games. I can't agree more. Despite the advances made by platforms like Nokia's SNAP Mobile, there is a shocking lack of social, networked games on what is an inherently networked device.

Finally, Lasky took on the "unpleasant shopping experience" that many consumers encounter if they want to buy a game. I think this is probably the single biggest obstacle for the entire mobile content industry. Despite a lot of hand-wringing and hundreds of products and services designed to make the process easier, purchasing content on a mobile phone is far too difficult and inconsistent for consumers. Lasky also warned carriers not to disrupt the revenue chain by squeezing game publishers. Game publishing "is not the ringtone business," he said. "We actually make stuff." - Eli

P.S. It's not too late to RSVP for tonight's FierceDeveloper party, Shaken Not Stirred. It's located at Scores, just a few blocks from the San Jose convention center. Hope to see you there!