In an attempt to create a cult following like those enjoyed by some popular video games, the publishers of "Star Trek Deep Space Nine: the Fallen" announced Tuesday that gamers can sign up to receive clues and cheat codes in text messages via their cell phones.
Though video game publishers have long posted game guides and clues on Web sites, and sent the information directly to people via email, Simon & Schuster Interactive says it is the first game publisher to relay the information via cell phone.
Simon & Schuster Interactive vice president Peter von Schlossberg says he wants people to continue living the "Star Trek" game while away from their computers--by viewing their Web-enabled cell phones as their own "communicators."
"The consumer is so bombarded with messages from their email, we're pulling it away from the clutter that's out there," said von Schlossberg. "This is another way that we can get to them in a non-crowded medium, and it's something they can play with at their leisure."
Video game players can sign up for the service on the game's Web site. Simon & Schuster Interactive said it will be offering the free text messaging service through a collaborative effort with Finnish-based Add2Phone.
The companies also intend to create a distinctive ring for cellular phones that will alert "Star Trek" players that they are about to receive some new information, a feature that is already available in Japan.
Simon & Schuster Interactive is not alone in its move toward increased interactivity. Last week, Sega announced it will develop games for Motorola's next-generation cell phones.
"Video game marketers are starting to become a little more creative and use the technology around them," said Gartner analyst P.J. McNealey. "What you're finding now is that games are reaching beyond the PC to become a little more interactive. I think PDAs and cell phones are the most natural fit."
Die-hard video game players have proven to be a receptive group to the marketing of new technology, analysts say. They tend to be more technologically savvy and eager to experience whatever is new on the market.
"These (gamers) are early adopters, and they want to deal with the newest technology," von Schlossberg said.
This is why, he says, sending messages via cell phone will likely be successful. "When you get these things on your email, it's commonplace," he said. "We're trying to build up some kind of loyalty."
Securing a dedicated and loyal following is crucial in the highly competitive PC gaming industry. Research company PC Data estimates consumers will spend $1.6 billion on games this year, up from $1.4 billion last year. However, only a handful of extremely popular games tend to command a disproportionate share of this revenue.
For example, the top-selling game this year, "The Sims," accounted for 5 percent of the total revenue, bringing in $51 million in U.S. sales, according to PC Data. Furthermore, only 17 games have sold more than 1 million units, with the vast majority selling considerably smaller amounts.
Top-selling games tend to fall into two categories, analysts say: games such as "Doom" and "Diablo" that are created for hard-core gamers and those aimed at the mass market, such as "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?"
Gamers who sign up for the program will receive their first instant text message regarding the game on Dec. 11. Cell phones that are Web-ready, or "WAP" enabled, will be able to send messages back to Simon & Schuster Interactive and, beginning in January, gamers will also be able to browse the game's Web site on their phones.
The company said that the service will be free and that people's personal information will not be distributed. Simon & Schuster is the publishing arm of Viacom.