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Anne Lindner

Q & A: David Cotter, Alatto - Part 2

22 November 2001

Click here to view Part 1 of the David Cotter interview.

Last week, IGN spoke with David Cotter, Alatto's director of technology, about the current state of wireless gaming and what his company is doing to prepare for the future. Alatto is a Dublin-based consulting firm that provides services for wireless products, including developing wireless casino and sports betting games for up-and-coming 3G license holders. In the second half of the interview, Cotter discusses what needs to happen before wireless gaming gains mainstream popularity.

IGN: Is there utility in making the games simple?

DC: Although the devices are so much better than they were even a year ago, in fact the Japanese are at least a year ahead of Europe, and many of the devices that are going to be launched in 3G will be made in Japan. It's just a better screen and a better user experience. But even with that the screens are still small; it's not a computer screen, and it's not a full keyboard. So it's difficult to type things in, and it's still difficult to fit a lot of information on the screen. And for that reason, it's very important that--what some people are trying to do is take the Web and put it on the phone as kind of a one-to-one mapping so that every piece of information you would normally see on a Web page, they want to put it on a phone. But there just isn't--the phone aren't that good, the screens aren't that big. So it's very important to keep it simple from the point of view of displaying information and the point of view of user input.

And so we have to try to find ways for the user to use these things very easily, because, if you've ever used your mobile phone to type text, you know how difficult it is. People do learn to do it very quickly; for the most part it's very difficult. That's why we've tried to keep it simple.

IGN: What's the payment mechanism when you're actually gambling on your phone?

DC: That very much depends on who is supplying the games. From our point of view, we supply these games for customers, if for example--it would often be the 3G license holder who is going to be providing the service for its customers, and they will have a payment interface. What the plan is, and it isn't live yet, anywhere that I know of, in Europe the plan will be. for the user to be able to pay, kind of a micro payment, on their phone, using their phone account. And then there's other things like--quite often the 3G license holder will have a third party agreement with some kind of a bookmaker that's already providing games that can be put on a phone so that they can be played at the bus stop or at the train station. That's kind of what we're thinking of, and the 3G license holder might not necessarily want to develop that service, but we want to provide it and they'll do it in partnership with a third party, and the third party may have a different billing mechanism; you may have to open an account with them using credit cards and that kind of thing.

The best way we think is to do it through the actual phone company, to make it as easy as possible. The actual process of making a payment with your credit card can filter out a lot of customers. It can be done in a much easier way where it can be put on your phone bill, essentially. There are problems, in particular if you want to allow people bet a lot of money on a particular thing--you can't allow somebody to bet £10,000 on something and put that on their phone bill. So gaming is kind of different in that point of view, and it might be necessary to let people have some kind of account where they already have money in the account.

IGN: Are people playing wireless games yet?

DC: They are, but the stuff that we've talked about they're not. That's very much the next generation. They should be next year. Mid-next year would be a target, but it's unlikely that that's going to be reached.

IGN: Why not?

DC: Only because historically these things have always been delayed. It's always been difficult to get the actual infrastructure and the handsets and all that.

IGN: What needs to happen before an explosion takes place in wireless gaming's popularity?

DC: I think that clearly the number of users is the key. One of the obstacles in the past has been the devices and the network connectivity speed. So the user experience has been a big obstacle in the past. (But) there's clearing willingness for people. They want to use their phones for this kind of stuff. There's also a huge thing in just these phone ring tones that you can get, or these little icons that you can get for your phone. (The icons) are not very sophisticated, but people are prepared to pay £1 or £2 for those kinds of things. That's a big explosion that would have been very hard to predict.

People just want their phones to do these things, and I think that once these new fully featured handsets come, and provided they're not too expensive--a lot of it will depend on the charging models that the operators decide on--they may initially charge too much and there won't be a great take-up then, but once it reaches the mass market then certainly there'll be an explosion.

Q & A: David Cotter, Alatto - Part 2 is republished from
Articles in this Series
Anne Lindner
Anne Lindner