Sports MMOGs Open Mobile HorizonsColin Campbell
The company rolled out its soccer multiplayer game Championship Manager Online, earlier this year. The joint venture with Eidos has been a slow-burner, but Jadestone says the company has been treating it as an open beta for the last six months, and has attracted "five-figure subscribers" paying $5 a month each. So far it has only been launched in the UK, but is set to be rolled out internationally in the months ahead.
Just like any other sports management game, players choose a club, select tactics, manage their squads and play against other clubs. The difference is that the other clubs are coached by real people, with whom players can trade, organize mini-leagues and talk trash.
The game is also played in real-time, so soccer matches are played out across the season.
What makes all this interesting is the game's expanding mobile options. At the moment, these are limited to SMS updates, but they will soon include squad selection, tactics and eventually, video highlights.
Jadestone is working on a hockey version of the game, and it's not difficult to imagine this being a big hit with football, baseball and basketball fans, many of who already enjoy simple online fantasy sports games.
Unlike those games, players are actually influencing the outcome of their sports knowledge, rather than hoping that their picks do well on the real world field of play.
Jadestone's CEO Robert Henrysson says, "Gaming is becoming a lot more connected. Players want experiences that go back to the traditional way of gaming, being a social experience."
He adds, "The mobile phone is the key social connector. We have a range of SMS services we are planning to launch and through those you can be in contact with your team, get highlights of games, bid on players, perform basic tactics. Moving on from there it would be great to have a full client where you can play the whole game but that is for the years to come."
The company is working closely with Nokia on a number of MMO products that use mobile input. One such is Spirits, which was originally created for the N-Gage platform, now available through Nokia's series 60 range.
Henrysson describes it as "Pokemon for adults". Players use the PC or mobile experience to hunt or bond with spirit characters, which are then used in combat situations.
The PC version is "a richer graphical experience" although users can play the whole game on their mobile if they wish.
But what evidence is there that people want to carry their games around with them? Henrysson says, "We're listening to what people are asking for. They are playing games like this because they want to engage with other players, whether that is in card battle games or sports games. The mobile and PC allow this to happen whether they are at home or not. We see the enthusiasm for this, and that is our lead."