MWC - Zeemote wants mobile gamers to let go of their phone

Zeemote has shown a wireless remote control for playing games on mobile phones.

You might think the last thing you'd need to play games on your mobile phone would be a wireless remote control, but Zeemote's JS1 is just that.

The Bluetooth device has four buttons and a thumb-operated analog joystick, and can be held in the left or right hand, leaving the other hand free to hold the phone.

The control measures 95 millimeters x 35 mm x 20 mm, and is less fiddly to operate than the small buttons on phones, said Jim Adams, Zeemote's vice president of sales and business development. Separating the control from the phone also makes it easier to hold the display steady while playing action games, he said at a press event on the eve of the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, where Zeemote will be showing the device.

This reporter is no gamer, but flying the helicopter in Fishlabs' shoot-em-up game Heli Strike 3D seemed easier with the Zeemote than with the tiny joystick of the Nokia N95 on which the game was running. The instinctive reaction is to point the control at the phone, holding them close together, but the gadget works just as well if you relax and let your arm fall to your side.

Fireworks, a bubble-bursting game developed by Finblade, showed off what Adams sees as a key benefit of the JS1: it makes two-player gaming possible on a single mobile phone. It also showed that whoever is holding the phone has a certain advantage.

Games must be specially coded to work with the Zeemote, Adams said, but the company will offer programmers a software development kit (SDK) at no cost. Zeemote will retain control of the SDK under a royalty-free license that will allow it to ensure that game play meets a certain minimum quality standard, he said.

In addition to Fishlabs and Finblade, Zeemote is working with developers such as Eidos and Sega Mobile, the company said.

Zeemote will sell the device first in Europe, because the high-end handsets it is most likely to be used with are more prevalent here, Adams said.

No price has been set: the company hopes to convince operators or retailers to bundle the controller with games and a new phone. Focus groups have told the company they would expect to pay between US$30 and $50 for such a device, Adams said.

The company plans to put the controller into mass production in May. The three-year-old company is on surer financial footing after landing $7million in new funding from Nauta Capital, Commonwealth Capital Ventures and Egan-Managed Capital.

The Mobile World Congress, at the Fira de Barcelona, runs through Thursday.

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