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September 10, 2009

“Casual location” Nokia gaming coming to life soon

Trafalgar-squareGLOBAL – Recently we were lucky enough to grab a quick chat with Mark Ollila, Director of X-Media Solutions at Nokia. An intriguing job title, indeed, backed up by an exciting role. See, Mark is responsible for running a worldwide team focused on creating new cross-media services, cross-media games (including N-Gage) and evolution of current services such as Ovi Share (whilst juggling and balancing plates on his head). Certainly, no small task. We spoke to him briefly at NW09 about the hot topic of location-based gaming and he gave us a better idea of when we can expect what he calls “casual location” games to leap out of the conceptual arena and spring to life.

Back in March at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco, Mark openly talked about a concept for a “casual location” driving game that enabled you to plot a racetrack on a satellite image of your current location. The idea being that rather than running around and physically moving location to affect the outcome of a game, the “casual location” approach means you can get an easier enriched and contextually aware gaming experience purely by tapping into your current position. So should you be stood by Trafalgar Square or the Taj Mahal, the game lets you exploit your surroundings and translate them into scenario for a gaming experience. This was a pre-production game that Mark spoke about in more detail in a great interview with Edge back in June (read the full story).

Since then it’s developed futher. Mark told us that two pre-production “casual location” games (including the driving game) are currently being evaluated for production, with at least one (the other game remains a mystery) penciled into the diary to appear in our palms by the end of this year. An exciting prospect, and only the beginning. Granted, location-based gaming will become only one of many spokes on the mobile gaming wheel, but it’s great to know it’ll at least become part of the fabric of portable play soon.

If you want to read more about social location based gaming we posted an interesting essay written by Nokia’s Director of Games, Jaako Kaidesoja, back in April (read the full essay here).

What to you think about location-based gaming? Is this concept of more subtle and contextually aware (rather than physically running about) the way forward? Share your thoughts below.