A mobile Zeevolution?

A mobile Zeevolution?

By Ed Fear

February 13th 2008 at 1:22PM

Creativity restricted by mobile phone controls? One company with a new peripheral thinks it has the answerâ?¦

Ask a gamer why they don’t play many mobile phone games, and they’ll inevitably say that it’s because of the controls. If the N-Gage has taught us anything, it’s that in order to be successful a phone must be a phone first and foremost – and that means a layout not particularly conducive to gaming.

Massachusetts-based tech startup Zeemote thinks the solution isn’t producing a phone that looks like a gamepad, but separating those components out into two devices – and the company is currently courting developers, with an SDK release at GDC ahead of the device’s rollout later this year.

Asked how mobile developers could benefit by implementing support for the device, Zeemote CEO Beth Marcus is clear in the message: “Better sales, better visibility and enhanced gameplay. It attracts consumers who wouldn’t necessarily play the game because they think that this 3D game couldn’t possibly play well on their cellphone. But with a Zeemote, they immediately know that they’ll get a gaming experience that they are used to.”

Key in designing the SDK, says Marcus, was making sure that it didn’t get in the way of developers. “It’s cognisant of developer concerns with getting product out that we make it as easy as possible for them to take this thing and go, without needing a lot of work. Developers have said that it only takes them an hour to implement.”

Of course, she explains, an hour is the figure for implementing basic functionality. The real draw of the Zeemote, though, is the switch from digital button presses to analogue movement, and taking full advantage of that will take extra time. It’s this analogue movement that is critical to 3D gaming, and possibly the reason why the uptake of mobile 3D titles has been slower than anticipated.

The quick implementation time also means that developers can rapidly engineer support into older titles, which Zeemote is already doing with several of its partners. It also plans to launch zeemote.com, a one-stop portal for Zeemote owners that the company believes will drive extra revenue to the whole ecosystem as users share information on the latest Zeemote-enabled titles, giving a second lease of life to older titles as well as effectively promoting newer ones.

And although Zeemote sees applications beyond gaming for the device, it’s keen to stress that the emphasis is on  game developers. “Right now the SDK is focused on game developers, it’s crafted around their needs. We expect other stuff to happen after release, But our main goal is to get out of the way of people being creative and help them to succeed.”