Show most non-gamers an iPhone running the 3D fighting game Kroll and the reaction is usually some variation of "wow".

What surprises them is that a game of such quality and with such stunning graphics is on a handheld device.

That’s an experience Xavier Carrillo, CEO and founder of Digital Legends Entertaiment (DLE), the games and technology developers that created Kroll, is getting used to.

He told that the technology available on today’s handsets means sophisticated games previously only possible on consoles are now feasible on smartphones.

The proof of that has been people’s reaction to Kroll ever since it was announced at the Worldwide Developer Conference by Apple earlier this year.

"People are not aware what you can do on a mobile – what’s possible and how capable it is," he said. "It’s an eye-opener and it will attract a lot of people."

Head-quartered in Barcelona, Spain, DLE has served as a Nokia N-Gage First Party Developer since 2004 and began publishing games for Apple’s this year.

Kroll was specifically designed for the iPhone and iPod Touch.

Content Is King

With the latest smartphones now capable of running such advanced games, Carrillo said having excellent content was essential.

He believes this will drive the sale of handsets as consumers seek out everything from games and music to maps.

"People will buy a handset because of the game in much the same way as someone will buy a laptop for gaming," he said.

In the case of the iPhone, Carrillo said the big publishers were now treating it as a console-standard gaming device.

This means they can cross-market big movie releases – as they did with Indiana Jones – along with games for the PS3, the Xbox 360 and mobile devices.

"We believe it’s going to be a huge opportunity," he said.

Interestingly, smartphones have become such attractive platforms for gaming almost as a by-product of the drive to create multi-media handsets.

The demand for more megapixels on cameras led to more RAM, the popularity of mobiles as music players required more storage capacity and the addition of TV functionality led to improved hardware accelerators.

For gamers, Carrillo said it means someone playing a game on a smartphone on the train to work can now expect a quality similar to that on their PS3 at home.

And while he doesn’t believe mobile gaming will replace consoles such as the PS3, it’s opening the whole gaming world up to a new market.

"The mobile consumer audience is much wider – and it’s a different consumer," he said. "People that have never played games are discovering them now."

The appeal to the mainstream was borne out in a recent Newsweek article.

It compared the quality of games from Apple’s App Store more than favorably to desktop PC or console games and claimed the iPhone and iPod Touch were well on their way to becoming important forces in handheld gaming.

Price A Factor

That success will possibly owe a great deal to the price of games as well as their quality, according to Carrillo.

He said experience in the PC gaming market had shown that several "micro" payments are a better pricing strategy than a higher one-off purchase price.

Charging just a few dollars a time to download games from the Apple app store ensures people aren’t put off and make them more likely to take a chance on a game.

Where developers can increase revenue is by offering extra content – often in the form of additional characters, weapons or scenarios – that players can buy separately.

"People prefer games with less content that they can then add to," he said. "They can play the game and if they like it, they can pay more. If they don’t, then they don’t have to.

"So it’s much better for them to spend a small amount several times than one large amount."

Carrillo said mobile gaming will evolve in tandem with technological advances. So features such as touchscreens, accelerators and GPSs are being incorporated in developing location-based and community-oriented games as well as music and head-to-head games.

But he said games developed for consoles can not just be copied over to a mobile platform.

Aside from the hardware differences, PC games are played in very different settings to mobile games and that requires the content and controls to be adapted to that environment.

DLE seem have got that right with the graphically-stunning Kroll – so expect to see a lot more people glued to their handsets.

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