Vodafone has launched a range of text-based multiplayer games for its users. Players can pit their wits against the machine or against other players and games are charged as text message calls - typically 20 cents per message.
Games can take a number of rounds to play so the cost of a game will vary from a few cents to several dollars. Mobile phone multiplayer games are a booming business overseas. Cellphone happy Swedes can play a variety of games but the most popular, from a company called It's Alive, is a hunter/hunted game where users track their targets, who are physically in the same location, until they are in the same cell site. Once there it's a matter of who fires first to see who wins the game.
Vodafone's version of the game, Splat, sees players assume the role of either Farmer Jo or Young Billy, a young man with "affections" towards Farmer Jo's daughter.
"In each game, one person plays Farmer Jo (the hunter), and the opponent plays Young Billy (the runner). With each turn, if you're Young Billy, you need to find a hiding spot. Then it's the other player's turn to 'go-a-hunting' as Farmer Jo. If Farmer Jo finds Young Billy's hiding spot, Splat, Billy is dead."
If that all seems a tad too dramatic there are more traditional games like Hangman, a pair of trivia knowledge games called M-Trivia and Brain Drain along with Scissors Paper Rock and Hot Potato.
In the UK a Star Trek-based game is about to be launched and one European-based analyst company, Informa Media, predicts mobile phone gaming will be worth more than $US11 billion within five years. That's double the existing handheld game market, currently dominated by Nintendo.
Online mobile games are likely to get a huge boost when the new 2.5G networks come onstream early next year - Vodafone's GPRS and Telecom's CDMA will both offer higher connection speeds as well as keeping the devices connected to the network permanently which will help the game designers keep the game players on their toes.
Interested players need to chose a nickname and log on at Vodafone's game site, Softgame.