Calling all cell phone gamers.
Mobile phones may seem ubiquitous now, but just wait until Seattle-based Versaly Games gets games and ringtones on every cell phone near you (A head’s-up on the future: Get used to the Star Trek theme song). President and CEO Matthew Feldman chats about interactive games, wireless standards, and sitting in Captain Picard’s chair.
How did Versaly get started?
After selling my second company, Tufans, I spoke to some people in the Microsoft Smartphone group and they said their number one partnering interest was for interactive games. I thought about it for a week and really liked the idea. I did some research and saw an enormous industry that was just getting started. Because I wasn’t a big gamer, I brought on the vice president of R & D from Wizards of the Coast, and Versaly was born.
How do you decide what applications to develop?
Most of our strategic product decisions were based on what our customers were requesting. Bright, high-resolution screens and high fidelity speakers are being incorporated into mobile phones. The phone manufacturers and wireless carriers want to sell products to take full advantage of these capabilities.
We deliver interactive games, ringtones, screen wallpaper and screensavers, animation, and other fun-to-use content for mobile phones.
What kinds of challenges did you face developing media for wireless devices?
The lack of standards. We currently work with 15 carriers from five different countries, each offering mobile phones from different phone manufacturers. For each color image we have in our library, there needs to be about 10 different versions in various formats and resolutions to maximize the quality of the image on the mobile phone and keep transmission costs low.
Similar complexities exist for animation and ringtones. The formats for games are even more diverse. Our production group spends a lot of time creating and managing all these different versions.
What do you see as the future of wireless content?
I see wireless content getting more and more in line with mainstream entertainment. Movie studios and record labels will use the mobile phones, in addition to TVs, radios, CDs and PCs, to advertise, market and distribute their content. For example, when a new band puts out a new album, cuts from that new album can be available first as ringtones. When a new movie is made, trailers will be available for mobile phones.
Sports scores are already available as text, but the future will bring full media coverage to sports and all entertainment. The screen may be smaller, but the graphics, music, sounds, and entertainment value will be equal to the TV, radio, and PC.
What have been some of your favorite projects?
Well, our flagship property is Star Trek. I thought I was a Star Trek fan, until I got involved with the licensing side. The conventions, the details of the Star Trek episodes, an entire Klingon language–it’s incredible, the amount of content that Star Trek has created. It makes me feel that the show’s stories are really true. The people at Viacom Consumer Products, the licensing group for Paramount, have also been terrific. I got a tour of the Star Trek stages on the Paramount lot, met a few actors and even sat in the captain’s chair. How cool is that?
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