I went to a talk about the latest trends in mobile gaming.
The latest trend is for big bold characters, large enough to be bold rather than shrunk to fit lots onto the screen.
The limitations of mobile have in effect freed designers from the console's shades-of-grey reality. Stark monochrome with flashes of colour can be effective in displaying characters.
Similarly, characters do not need to be realistically rendered. Stick figures made out of circles can be good. E.g. Xiao Xiao
A 5-star rating for a level taking account of speed, accuracy, etc. can make for a replayable game. Levels can be easy to complete, so as not to put off casual gamers, but hard to master. There needs to be a reward for achieving 5 stars.
Retro Chop Em Ups e.g. Tetris Pop
e.g. Namco Arcade Golf: after finishing a hole, the player can play pacman for 30 seconds to earn a reward.
e.g. Sola Rola, Gish, Enigmo.
freeplay with no game target
Including a traditional game (like a card game) as part of the game mechanic. People will already know how to play and remember the 'brand' e.g. Puzzle Quest, Creatures of the Deep.
Using a single button that changes purpose depending on the current situation. e.g. Pro Evolution Soccer mobile.
Well, 'fun' anyway. e.g. Piglympics. You know what you're getting just by the name: pigs, doing olympic sports.
Turn-based spread out over time. E.g. Spore Origins, Anytime Pool for FaceBook.
A single button to control what happens, but has to be pressed at just the right time. e.g. Kimikaze Robots.
Using the tilt detection powers of the device e.g. stuff on the iPhone
e.g. The iPhone. Lots of lessons can be learn from the DS Lite
The screen real estate is divided into 9 and the keypad buttons correspond to that sector to control where you fire a gun at say. With a bit of thought, this can be made interesting.
Create and share. Remember the 'YouTube rule' that 2% of people are creators and 98% of people are consumers. E.g. Boom Blox
Playing the game on top of a photorealistic background. e.g. Table Tennis Star. This can look great and really stand out from the crowd as long as the gameplay is good.
The league table should be of people that you know, not the whole world.
Thanks to Stuart Dredge from Pocket Gamer for "Copy right: If you've short of ideas for you next mobile game, nick these" at Develop Conference 2008