Mobile phones are used to keep in touch with friends and family. Why, then, do mobile phone games, when social, so often ignore family to instead have players interact with strangers?
Imagine a game intended to capitalize on, and extend, the connections and experiences shared by a group of friends. Party games perform this role in offline life. My favorite is Apples to Apples, a card-based game which gives one person an adjective card, and asks the other players to provide the noun card from their hand that best matches the adjective - in the opinion of the judge, not any actual measures. It is not a game well played with strangers.
This game could readily be extended to mobile, and played on an extended ongoing basis. A small group of friends might decide to try it, and one person could send the application to all via SMS. Game play could have a variable number of players: in any given round, only people who are available to participate will actually participate. A chat system would be integrated with play - or perhaps the chat client would have the game integrated?
The game could extend over days, weeks, or months. A round might be initiated either upon completion of the previous round, or whenever somebody felt like it. SMS would wake up the application for actual use. Game statistics would accumulate over time for each group of friends, and a user could play in multiple games simultaneously, although only one could be active.
If the game got old for a group, a new person could be added. Alternately, the group might migrate to a new game, such as Cranium.
Perhaps the most interesting aspect of this is that I could imagine participating in a game with my group of close friends. Each round is a quick "I'm thinking of you, and about who you are" sort of casual interaction. I'd want maybe 3 or 4 rounds a day, not too much. And I'm actually in the second-largest group of mobile game users, describing this segment's preferred mobile game use pattern. Perhaps there is something here.
Of course, Verizon won't allow the user to follow SMS links (at least on the RAZR), so they lose - users would have to play a text-only version of the game. Cingular's services agreement requires users to only use sites within their deck, so they lose too. Then again, Verizon is uninterested in services that "promote flirting", so Verizon loses again.
Hmm. Maybe this should be a Sprint exclusive application, at least in the US. That sounds "sticky" to me.