Squeezing a relatively high-end game like Second Life onto your mobile phone without slowing the experience to a crawl is an impressive technical achievement. And this isn’t just some pared-down “check your status” feature, but a real mobile version of the game, one that lets you wander, fly or teleport through the world and chat with your friends. Vollee says it takes advantage of compression and 3G mobile networks to minimize bandwidth requirements.
Second Life Mobile is launching its public test today, offering compatibility with 40 different 3G and wireless-enabled mobile devices. (The company plans to add more devices soon, including the iPhone.) We haven’t had a chance to try it out, but gaming site 1UP played with a demo at the Game Developers Conference in February and raved that the experience is “stunning” and “PC-perfect.” I’ve embedded a video of the mobile version in action below.[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XwRnjbkljnc&rel=0&hl=en&w=425&h=355]
It will be interesting to see if gamers are actually interested in exploring big virtual worlds on their phones. The mobile gaming market is dominated by casual products, and while technical limitations have a role in that, it’s also easier to imagine someone playing a quick game on their phone, rather than looking for a deep, immersive experience.
This announcement could also be a boost for Linden Lab, the startup behind Second Life. The San Francisco company’s board recently appointed a new chief executive to replace founder Philip Rosedale. The ostensible reason was to help the company handle rapid growth, but there has also been talk that Second Life hasn’t quite lived up to its initial promise.
Vollee also has plans for a mobile version of World of Warcraft, the number-one massively multiplayer on-line roleplaying game. The company, originally called Game Stream, was founded in Israel, and has raised $11.5 million in two rounds of venture funding.