MMOs on Your Cellphone

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Converse SLJohn Carmack has talked about building one, Asian gamers already have one, but unless I missed the memo, Second Life is the first established, US-based 3D online world accessible by cellphone. This technology comes not from Linden Lab, the company behind Second Life, reports Reuters, but Comverse, a telecom software provider with a somewhat troubled history. Powered by Java and interfacing with a PC server, a cellphone user with an existing Second Life account can log into the world and interact, albeit through a palm-sized graphic display.

The most obvious question, of course, is, “OK, now what?” Trouble is, Comverse doesn’t seem quite sure, themselves.

“On the handset it’s a little more limited,” a company rep acknowledges to Reuters. “[I]t’s hard writing long sentences. It’s more just popping in, seeing who’s visiting your area.” But even that functionality could be a boon for SL content creators who want to check up on their businesses remotely; still, it’s difficult to see many people interacting via mobile on a regular basis for long-term periods.

Unless, I should add, SL game developers retool their products to be playable through cellphone. So far the most successful user-created Second Life games are casino or casual titles like Tringo, similar to web-based games, except you get to play them while chatting, flirting, and listening to music in a 3D space. That could be the killer app which creates an audience for MMO-by-mobile. Otherwise, the technology could wind up as yet one more Cool For Five Minutes widget.

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