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Anne Lindner

Mobliss and the American Wireless Gaming Market

25 October 2002

A software company based in Seattle, Wash. is doing its best to prepare U.S. wireless customers for the day when mobile phones can be used in the United States to gamble for real money.

Mobliss, which recently released a play-for-fun blackjack game, has developed a business model based on the premise that "everyone now has a cell phone in their pocked and you don't just use it for making phone calls anymore," said its president and CEO, Brian Levin.

Levin's company has designed a variety of cell phone games, including Family Feud, Football Pick 'Em, Racing Pick 'Em, Jumble and Wildwest Blackjack, that consumers can download to their phones and use for $5 for a lifetime subscription or a couple of dollars each month. The company's blackjack game is currently offered by wireless carrier Verizon.

Levin said people are adapting to playing games on their phones at mass rates, whether the game consists of a pick 'em game or an action-based game. He said his company is helping educate people about the variety of uses cell phones have.

"What we're really doing is creating the technology and the properties that will get people to adopt and start using these services on their phones, to make the wireless services happy and entertain people," he said.

Levin said Verizon is offering a new kind of mobile phone that is outfitted with a technology called BREW, which stands for Binary Runtime Environment for Wireless. The technology enables the phones to offer more intense graphics and action-oriented games.

"Verizon has made a pretty big splash with these new phones," he said.

While Mobliss' blackjack game is for fun only, the company acknowledges that real gambling is one direction where mobile gaming is headed the world over. However, given the current legal situation regarding online gambling here, Levin knows that all he can do for now is watch from the sidelines and take notes for when U.S. companies can get into the game.

"There are companies that kind of go and do things under the radar, so to speak, and some people will find it, but it's just so difficult if you're not with the carriers, it's not really worth it," he said. "And when that does change--it will eventually--we'll be there."

One thing that prevents U.S. mobile games companies from getting involved in for-real gambling games is that they have to offer their wares through the major U.S. carriers, who are reluctant to offer customers anything risky.

"The issue is, in this world, distribution takes place through the wireless carriers because it's kind of like fast food--you only eat what's on the menu, and it's hard to navigate through lots of choices. It's not like the Internet, where you have this rich experience," he said. "So, if you want to reach the mass audience who goes out and buys their phones, you're going to offer the games that are kind of geared on their menu, the top few choices."

Mobliss and the American Wireless Gaming Market is republished from
Anne Lindner
Anne Lindner