A Brief History of Mobile Games: In the beginning, there was Snake


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Where did it all start?

Obviously you can trace mobile games back to the earliest mobile phones, but mobile games didn't really take off until Nokia launched Snake.

Still the most famous mobile game, Snake first appeared in 1997 on the Nokia 6610.

It has been estimated that over 400 million copies have been shipped since and it's now in its eighth version. Not bad for a game that started life as a some black squares moving on a green background.

Now Snake was all very well and good, but if mobile games were to really progress, you needed a way of buying new games.

If Snake and those early embedded versions of Tetris and the like were Generation One of mobile games, the next step –something we will call Generation Two – were WAP games.


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A Brief History of Mobile Games: In the beginning, there was Snake
A Brief History of Mobile Games: In the beginning, there was Snake
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Features
March 14th, 2016 - 11:00pm
By Chris Wright
Where did it all start?

Obviously you can trace mobile games back to the earliest mobile phones, but mobile games didn't really take off until Nokia launched Snake.

Still the most famous mobile game, Snake first appeared in 1997 on the Nokia 6610.

It has been estimated that over 400 million copies have been shipped since and it's now in its eighth version. Not bad for a game that started life as a some black squares moving on a green background.

Now Snake was all very well and good, but if mobile games were to really progress, you needed a way of buying new games.

If Snake and those early embedded versions of Tetris and the like were Generation One of mobile games, the next step –something we will call Generation Two – were WAP games.


Here comes the science bit.

Officially known as the Wireless Application Protocol, WAP is a technology standard developed to enable mobile devices to connect to the internet. The company that did the most to develop this was called Unwired Planet, although it took it a good few years to come up with anything very useful.

But by the late 1990s, it had created a microbrowser that could run on mobile phones and a version of the web it called UP.Link. Together with Ericsson, Nokia, and Motorola, the WAP Forum (now the Open Mobile Alliance) kicked off, ensuring standardisation, at least in Europe. In Japan, market leading operator NTT DoCoMo came up with its own i-mode standard instead.

In the end though, these were both roughly the same thing – a small web browser built into the phone that allowed you to connect to a server and transfer data to your phone.

Of course, back in 1999, the web was a much simpler place – no Facebook, YouTube, MySpace, Flickr or Twitter – and lots of people still hadn't fired up their modems and dial-up connections to use the Information Superhighway to which Al Gore had just put the finishing touches. Hence, the idea of surfing it on your phone sounded incredible.

UK operator BT Cellnet (now O2 UK) got very excited about this too, with its 'Surf the BT Cellnet' adverts giving a vivid impression of what using WAP would be like – quickly moving through a Matrix-like world overflowing with interesting information.

Unfortunately, the reality was four lines of black text on a green background and – if you were lucky – some simple monochrome graphics.

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