In an industry as fast-moving as mobile gaming, it's tough to keep track of new developments in the product sector - with key licenses and releases pouring through every day. In this new regular section, we'll round up the most important licensing announcements and product launches from the past fortnight, helping to keep you up to date with what's hot on handsets around the world.
Nokia announces four for N-Gage
It's been a busy week for the Nokia N-Gage platform, with four new titles being announced for the game deck at a special Nokia press event in Barcelona last week.
Beat 'em up title ONE was the star of the show - featuring as it does wireless multiplayer over Bluetooth and player ranking on N-Gage Arena - but the really clever ideas of this bunch come from Shadow-Born, a dark fantasy adventure game featuring present-day vampires and werewolves which interacts with the players by leaving text messages and calendar events on their phones for them.
Also announced was Habbo Islands, a curious extension of the extremely popular online community Habbo Hotel which offers players a fairly casual single-player adventure and the ability to connect directly with their friends in Habbo Hotel from the game. The game won't be out until the second half of 2006, though.
Finally from Nokia in this update, the firm also delved deep into the back catalogue with the announcement of Atari Masterpieces Volume 1 - a largely untouched set of eight Atari titles (including Asteroids, Battlezone, Lunar Lander, Centipede and Missile Command) on one game card, with the ability to upload hi-scores to N-Gage Arena. A second volume is expected next year.
iFone deal spawns four SEGA classics
Nokia isn't the only company with four new titles under its belt; the recently announced collaboration between Japanese publishing giant SEGA and British-based mobile gaming firm iFone is also set to yield four titles in its first crop of releases.
Unsurprisingly, iconic character Sonic The Hedgehog is among the first titles to be launched by the new partners, and Sonic will be joined by Super Monkey Ball Mini-Golf, Virtua Tennis and SEGA Rally.
Super Monkey Ball Mini-Golf will be the first game to hit handsets, arriving in December, while it'll be 2006 before we see SEGA Rally on our mobiles. Four further titles will be produced under the terms of the current deal, but no details have been announced as yet.
I-Play to deliver Winter Olympics '06 title
Mobile publisher I-Play has announced that it has won the license to create the first ever official mobile game based on the Winter Olympics, with the firm being granted the rights to create a title based on the Torino 2006 event.
The game, which will launch next January (the games take place in February), will allow players to try their hand at sports including downhill skiing, bobsleigh, curling and, of course, ski jumping.
"This is an incredibly exciting opportunity," according to I-Play boss Paul Maglione, "especially given that this will be the first-ever mobile phone game release for an Olympic Games."
Synergenix kicks off a mobile Storm
Kayak Interactive's European subsidiary Synergenix has announced the launch of Conflict: Global Storm for mobile devices, based on the hugely successful Conflict series published by SCi/Eidos on consoles.
The game, which is shipping to handsets across Europe this month, was created by series veterans 8-Bit Games and uses a brand new graphics engine that shows off all of the action of the franchise from an isometric viewpoint.
"The Conflict series shows that mobile games can be much more than simple puzzle or parlour games," commented Synergenix CEO Martin Forsling. "Each of the titles in this series has given mobile owners a deep and compelling gameplay experience which translates the strategy and action of the console titles into an equally rich mobile gaming experience."
Wonderphone builds a new Empire
French mobile game firm Wonderphone has been tapped by videogames giant Vivendi Universal Games to publish the mobile phone edition of Empire Earth, a successful PC strategy franchise.
Empire Earth Mobile is being made available across European operators this month, and draws heavily upon the heritage of its PC predecessor - but for the mobile version, a turn-based system has replaced the real-time strategy of the original.
The game features ten levels, and has five different combat criteria for 13 different types of unit. Although no wireless multiplayer has been implemented, players can play head to head matches by passing the handset between them.
Mobile Evolution for PES
Revered to an almost worrying degree by football fans, Konami's Pro Evolution Soccer series is something of a phenomenon in console gaming - and the series is now on its way to mobile phones with Pro Evolution Soccer Mobile being announced this week.
The game will be available to download in Europe in March next year, and Konami will be distributing it through its own Konami Net mobile portal. A full list of operators and handsets that will support the game has yet to be finalised.
"Pro Evolution Soccer is one of Konami of Europe's most recognised and successful titles," said Konami of Europe boss Kunio Neo. "We intend to bring it to mobile users in a form that will do justice to such a well-loved franchise."
Namco gets Snoopy for Spring 2006
The character of Snoopy and the Peanuts comic which features him are among the most valuable properties of United Media - so it's quite a coup for Namco to have sealed a deal for the mobile gaming rights to the franchise.
The first game to be based on the hugely mass-market brand will appear in Spring 2006, and hasn't yet been named - but it will feature Snoopy's journey through an imaginary war-torn environment to retrieve the "flag" in the form of Linus' security blanket, and according to Namco, will be very true to the character of the comic books.
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