Kuju Wireless: mobile gaming

an interview

Kuju Wireless develop games for phones. Here we talk to Kuju's Kevin Holloway about the market for games, and aspects of development.

What do you think the outlook is for mobile gaming?

[KH] We are still seeing a steady growth in the market. The majority of European handsets now are Java enabled and the US market has rapidly caught up with Europe (some say it has already overtaken it). This all indicates a good future for mobile gaming.

At the recent MeM04 some developers were suggesting they were only using Java because of outside pressures. I guess this is based on the supposed portability of Java code ... but on these devices everyone says that it is essentially not portable. Care to comment?

[KH] I think JAVA will continue to dominate because it offers an isolated run-time environment - ie a Java app can't (easily) affect the proper operation of the phone handset. As for portability this is not a problem unique to Java. The portability problem is more to do with the diversification of handsets.

That leads me on to assembler. The phone models with really small screens can't have all that much happening on the screen but what there is would be a lot faster with assembler. Do you think that as the market hots up, more people will use it?

[KH] No because as I said before I think Java will continue to dominate. Assembler would make portability even worse as it would need to be re-written for each chipset...

Part of the problem must be that with small games, there isn't a huge upside as you can't charge all that much for the games and so you can't afford to spend too much. There are some quite ambitious projects coming along for bigger screens though. Do you think there's soon going to be two tier market for mobile games?

[KH] Yes I think we will see a two tier market. However, I feel strongly that the bigger of the two will be the smaller/cheaper game market as this has the potential to be truly mass market. Unlike the console/handheld space which will only ever appeal to the hardcore gaming niche.

The latest game I saw of Kuju's was the Pat Cash tennis game which looked and played nicely on the large screen Nokia 6600. What are your other titles?

[KH] We are very pleased with Pat Cash Pro Tennis - demonstrated at MEM04 on the Nokia 6600. The game went live a week before Wimbledon and we have high expectations for it as tennis fever kicks in this summer. We have a wide range of other games including our best selling 'Lotus Challenge: City Racing' driving game, Rocket Girl - a cutesy platform game, Spy Shootout - a fast action shooting game, Ambi Stacks - a very addictive puzzle game, and several sports titles including Penalty Challenge and Sk8trix. On our release schedule for later this year we have 'Judge Dredd' and 'Bill & Ted's Mobile Adventure'.

Is there a usual way these games come to pass? Who is the instigator -- handset maker, service provider, developer?

[KH] The majority of our games now are the result of market research by our publishing team. However, there is still the occasional game which comes along which catches our imagination - for example 'Rocket Girl' was presented to us by a developer as an example of their work.

Do you do all your games in-house or do you accept pitches from outside developers?

[KH] We work with outside developers and maintain an in-house development capacity.

How big are your development teams?

[KH] 4-5 people. Although not all the team members work full time on just one game.

How long does it take to get a small game out the door?

[KH] 3-4 months is typical.

Do you think there's room for out-there new concepts in this form of gaming or do you think that this sort of mass market will always be just a matter of tailoring existing franchises and genres?

[KH] I think there is room for both, particularly as the market matures and purchasers get more information on what is available. We will continue to work with big names/brands such as Lotus and Pat Cash, but will also try more original titles as well. For example we are currently speccing out a sequel to our popular puzzle game Ambi stacks. The sequel will make better use of the platform by being designed to work multiplayer as well as single player.

Thanks Kevin.

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