Game developers are facing a potential mother lode when it comes to the mobile gaming market. With mobile games revenues expected to reach $11.2 billion by 2010 (Informa), market revenues set to triple to over $9 billion within a year (LogicaCMG), and mobile device users projected to reach 2 billion by the end of 2005 (Informa), mobile gaming is definitely not a market to be ignored.
However, when it comes to managing content in the mobile world, developers and publishers are finding it challenging to cash in on the true revenue potential of this growing market. This is because mobile game development is a dramatically different exercise than adapting content for the online and console worlds, where one need only create a handful of versions to meet the required critical mass for profitability.
In the mobile world, there is an ever escalating quantity of mobile assets, such as games, images, ring tones and video clips, which are becoming increasingly hard to manage efficiently and profitably. Add to that the rapid growth in mobile phone usage, as well as types of mobile devices and operator requirements, and we are seeing more and more dollars being left "on the table" because of inadequate digital management practices.
The need to find more effective ways to manage assets throughout the mobile content deployment cycle is reaching critical proportions. With hundreds - and in some cases thousands - of product versions required each month, industry players can no longer waste time finding or accessing relevant information, recreating assets or duplicating effort. Even the smallest of delays can diminish profits, delay time to market and reduce competitiveness.
While asset management tools have been a mainstay in the enterprise world, these "generic" solutions are effective in managing only certain aspects of mobile content deployment. On the whole, they fall short of the market in delivering the true functionality required to optimize content for the multitude of devices, streamline workflows and maximize revenues.
Developers and publishers need to have the technology in place to go beyond file finding to actually help them maximize the value of their digital assets. A digital asset management system therefore must be able to handle a variety of asset categories and formats and, more importantly, have built in industry knowledge of the idiosyncrasies of the hundreds of devices and operator requirements.
The new frontier
It wasn't always this way in the mobile world. In the early days of mobile game development, developers only had to concern themselves with a handful of operator requirements and devices. Today's developers are faced with having to develop content for hundreds of devices and meet the specific requirements of more than 100 operators - which means we are well beyond the point where a few builds can cover market needs.
Along with these growing technical complexities is the entry of digital content from media and entertainment entities such as Disney et al. In an effort to leverage the digital assets they have created, these major players are staking their claim on the rapidly expanding mobile market - a move that is adding considerably to the overwhelming job of managing and tracking hundreds and thousands of pieces of content.
The key to success today is finding a means to store all digital assets in one place in a way that developers and publishers know where they are - and equally importantly - how they relate to the devices available and operator requirements. File finding is only a small portion of the process. A digital asset management solution must provide a global view of where those assets can be deployed and from where they can generate revenues. This entails having the built in metadata along with the applications to identify what content needs to be tracked and how.
By way of example, let's look at how extensive digital asset management in a mobile world can be. If a publisher builds a version of an application for Vodafone to work in French on a Motorola V550, they must then determine where the same application can be deployed and how it can be adapted to work on other devices and support other operators. While this sounds simple enough, this can easily translate into 1000+ versions of the same game.
That is because in mobile content deployment, there are variations to contend with on both the device and operators sides of the equation. On the device side, it is necessary to understand all the nuances associated with each piece of equipment. A developer must know the screen dimensions, sound capabilities, operating system and platform (e.g. Java) - and much more - as well as the limitations/bugs of each device and how to adapt content accordingly.
On the operator side, the permutations are equally complex. Each operator has specific needs in terms of how a game is to be submitted (e.g. sample screen shots, text description, sample movie files and required list of devices supported). Even the application names can vary from operator to operator.
It is clear that when it comes to deploying mobile gaming applications, the whiteboard/spreadsheet mentality cannot be applied to address this rapidly maturing and evolving market. The challenge requires an equally mature approach to managing those precious digital assets that serves the specific needs of the mobile gaming industry - one that can provide the built in knowledge to address all parameters that contribute to mobile content deployment, from technical data to distribution and certification. Without it, those dollars will remain on the table for others to collect.
Randy Busch is VP Products for Tira Wireless, a premier provider of advanced technology for mobile content deployment. Tira's proprietary technology - the Tira Jump Product Suite - enables mobile publishers, operators and developers to quickly and cost effectively bring quality mobile content to market. For more information visit www.tirawireless.com.