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Cell-Phone Multi-Player Gaming Posed for Take-Off?

It?? been less than a year that Apple opened its App Store, which offers games and other apps for the iPhone and iPod touch. But already, developers are moving from simple applications, such as burping jukeboxes and puzzle games, on to new territories. Today, developer Smule announced a new multi-player game for the iPhone.

With Leaf Trombone World Stage, which is available from the App Store for 99 cents, users can play virtual instruments for other players. They can also judge each others?performance. Depending on the app’s popularity, thousands if not millions of players could potentially take part in these music contests.

Cell-phone-based multi-player games are nothing new: Several years ago, I was talking to people who were playing multi-player shoot-‘em-ups in Finland. In the U.K., people are playing multi-player mobile car racing and war strategy games. But these games are new to American mobile-phone users.

I think that mobile multi-player games have the potential to be bigger than their online counterparts, such as Ultima Online and the World of Warcraft (Both Ultima and Warcraft offer basic mobile applications throught the App Store already). Globally, more people use cell phones than PCs. The phones are quickly becoming more capable, so they can show rich graphics and offer good game controls. Wireless networks are becoming more robust as well, so they can offer a decent multi-player experience.

Future mobile multi-player games could acquire a greater following than their online counterparts for yet another reason: Games like Smule’s can tap into the casual gamer audience that’s not being served by Ultima and Warcraft.

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