Today in Mobile

Perhaps no segment in mobile has been transformed by Apple’s App Store the way mobile gaming has. Entrenched mobile publishers — many of whom were never really that entrenched anyway — continue to struggle as the focus shifts away from the carrier deck toward app stores, as I-play’s current round of layoffs demonstrates. Meanwhile, Tapulous has become the ultimate guy-in-the-garage success story, raking in nearly $1 million a month. Yes, the new distribution channels pose some serious challenges for publishers, but the opportunities for innovative, nimble startup game makers have never been greater.

Today in Mobile

Mobile is about to see an explosion in 3-D technology, according to a new report posted on GigaOM Pro this morning, as advances in hardware and software provide an opportunity for developers and publishers to create remarkably immersive offerings for the phone. But all that technology won’t mean a thing if developers and publishers don’t create content that can take advantage. So content providers should be hastily coming up with ways take advantage of 3-D in mobile with offerings like augmented reality apps, eye-popping games and rich video. Because once 3-D content on the phone gets legs, players who haven’t planned for 3-D will get left behind.

Is There Any Demand For a True Gaming Phone?

Nintendo’s profits are in free-fall as Apple’s iPhone and iPod touch increasingly eat into the sales of the portable Nintendo DS. But isn’t it time somebody built a real gaming phone?

Today in Mobile

EA Mobile made the rounds at CTIA in San Diego this week to showcase its upcoming iPhone version of Rock Band. But while the game appears to be a knockout (I haven’t had a chance to play it yet), I’m wondering just how lucrative it will be for the publishing giant given the production costs: A 12-person team worked for a year to develop the game, and EA has to pay licensing fees for the 20 featured tunes. I haven’t seen a price point for the iPhone version yet, but it will take a lot of sales at a few dollars per download to recoup those costs. Which underscores the fact that in the era of the app store, the guys in the garage have a real opportunity to compete with the behemoth publishing houses.

Kai-Fu Lee Talks Up His Post-Google Plans

kai-fu-leeKai-Fu Lee, who resigned as head of Google’s (s goog) operations in China last month, is looking to tap into burgeoning areas of the Chinese Internet market with his new Beijing-based incubator and investment fund, Innovation Works. To that end, the fund will invest in e-commerce, cloud computing software and mobile games, he told an audience at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, Calif., today.

Read More about Kai-Fu Lee Talks Up His Post-Google Plans

The RED One Makes Hong Kong Shine in Indie Series Lumina

[show=luminaseries size=large]The premise “A young woman meets the man in the mirror” might be more likely to get a Michael Jackson song stuck in your head than inspire viewing. But Lumina, written, directed and produced by independent filmmaker Jennifer Thym, takes that idea and twists it into a beautifully shot and suspenseful romantic fable.
Lumina (JuJu Chan) is a lonely workaholic living in Hong Kong, who discovers Ryder (Michael Chan) lurking in a mirror one day. Well, she doesn’t so much discover him as respond to his pretty smooth opening line: “For someone so beautiful, you sure spend a lot of time alone.” Ryder claims to be a prince from another realm, but for Lumina he’s more like a manifestation of her imaginary dream man; their wistful romance develops quickly, despite the fact that they’re never in the same physical space. But in the first two episodes, that relationship already begins to take a toll on her life — with more danger to come.
I admit that part of my attraction to this show is its cinematography and location — DPs XiaoSu Han and Andreas Thalhammer use the RED One camera to capture Hong Kong in gorgeous detail. In addition, Asian countries have felt underrepresented within the web series world, so it’s exciting to see a potential shift in that — one hopes that this will just be the first of many series to come from the region, which already has a rich tradition of filmmaking. Read More about The RED One Makes Hong Kong Shine in Indie Series Lumina

How Mobile-Game Makers Can Survive the App Store Assault

Increasing smartphone usage and the breakthrough of app stores have given birth to a flurry of activity on the mobile-gaming front from both startups like ngmoco and Zynga and major media brands such as Disney, ESPN and MTV Networks. Which makes me wonder how many of the entrenched players are living on borrowed time — and what they can do to stay alive.

Facebook Gets a Mobile Phone Arcade

mplayitHere’s a fun new Facebook game app that just went live: The Mplayit Mobile Arcade, where you can play dozens of free mobile phone game demos, including top titles like Spore Origins and Guitar Hero Mobile. It’s a Facebook version of the Mpowerplayer web site, so it’s also integrated into the social network’s unique functionality. For example, you can share Mplayit game links with people on your friends’ list; when you click “Recommend” on a specific game, it shows up in your newsfeed.

From the game publishers’ point of view, it’s a clever way of virally promoting and selling games on a network with 130 million users, many of whom might never even have considered buying a phone game otherwise. (The Facebook widget has a Buy This Game button which clicks you through to the title’s official web site.) For Mpowerplayer, it’s a new revenue stream: The company gets referral fees from the publishers featured in their application. As advertising budgets shrink to suit recessionary times, and developers are forced to get even smarter with their promotional dollars, I suspect we’ll see more Facebook applications like this one.

iPhone Owners Seem Crazy for Games

Ever since Apple put out its Software Developer Kit in March, game developers have been racing to create titles for the presumed market victor. But how much of a demand for them is there really? Based on the data from Cellufun, AOL’s designated mobile game portal since April, quite a lot. The company just told us that compared with other phone owners, iPhone gamers are generating four times the number of page views on Cellufun titles and double the time playing. (That’s an average of 21 minutes of game play and 65 page views per iPhone player session, compared to 11 minutes and 15 page views for sessions on other phones.) Pretty impressive, given Cellufun’s 5 million monthly uniques and 70 million page views. If the numbers are just as good for other game developers, expect to see the iPhone game catalog get a lot bigger soon.

Image credit: