Sega Brews Wireless Game Plans

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By Dan McDonough, Jr., Wireless.NewsFactor.com Those who dabble in the wireless space know there is a huge market for games: not for boring Pong-like games stuck in two dimensions, but for vivid games with interesting plots and challenges. Now, conversely, those who dabble in the gaming space have realized there is a huge market for wireless. This discovery is evidenced by Sega’s new deal with Qualcomm (Nasdaq: QCOM – news). Under the terms of an agreement between the two companies, Sega has licensed Qualcomm’s BREW (binary runtime environment for wireless) platform to launch a suite of games for wireless devices in the United States. “There is a major market for wireless gaming in Japan, and we expect to see a similar trend in the United States,” said Ryoichi Shiratsuchi, director of Sega’s mobile communications division. “To take advantage of these markets, Sega Corporation is aggressively teaming with major wireless companies worldwide.” BREW Makes Sense For Sega, BREW is a natural fit. Without it, the main platform for Wireless Data is WAP (wireless application protocol), a clumsy environment for developing feature-rich games. BREW offers a standardized applications environment that does not take up a huge amount of memory. Some consider the platform a Java alternative for the wireless world. Sega said it will use the platform to launch its video games on a host of wireless devices. The company hopes to have a few games ready as early as December, but there is a hitch to this set-up: Users will need a BREW-enabled handset to get into the game. But that should not be an insurmountable hurdle: At one time, users had to search for a WAP-enabled phone to access the wireless Web in the United States. Now, WAP is everywhere, and it is hard to get a phone without WAP. Taking Over Wireless Sega’s plan is to dominate the wireless space with its content — and the company has not relegated itself solely to the games segment. Already, Sega provides downloadable ring tones for NTT DoCoMo (news – web sites)’s i-mode service and J-Phone’s J-Sky service, both available in Japan. The company also provides Java-based games for Motorola’s iDEN, DoCoMo’s i-mode and J-Phone’s J-Sky phones in Japan. One thing is for sure: Sega has the market figured out. Studies show that entertainment-related use of mobile phones accounts for more than half of overall use in Japan. And some researchers expect that in the United States and Western Europe, more than 200 million people — 80 percent of all wireless phone users — will play online games using wireless devices by 2005. If those studies are correct, that statistic likely would translate into a US$6 billion market. Earlier this year, Sega inked a deal with Palm to deliver content in the United States to Palm OS-based PDAs and with Synovial to bring Sega games to the Compaq iPAQ, which is based on the Pocket PC operating system.

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