-So, we just announced this over at Gamasutra, and I wanted to reprint the news and then provide some 'color commentary' at the end of the announcement here on GSW:

"The organizers of the Independent Games Festival have announced a sister event for the handheld game industry, IGF Mobile, with entries open for innovative indie cellphone, DS, PSP and other handheld titles, and $20,000 in prizes to be awarded at GDC 2008 next February.

Submissions for the event are open at the official IGF Mobile website through Friday, October 26, and winners of the event will be recognized with multiple prizes at the IGF Mobile ceremony, taking place during the GDC Mobile event at Game Developers Conference on February 19, 2008. The event will run parallel to the main IGF competition, which retains its $50,000 prize pool and current categories.

IGF Mobile is launching with NVIDIA, creator of the GoForce family of GPUs for handheld devices, as the Founding and Platinum Sponsor. In keeping with the company’s philosophy of encouraging and fostering new technology innovation, NVIDIA is particularly supporting the ‘Innovation in Augmented Design’ category as part of its sponsorship. The prize specifically honors mobile games that were developed using GPS, camera, motion sensing, and WiFi elements, along with other unique and differentiating features.

This $2,000 prize will be awarded in addition to other $2,000 prizes for Innovation in Mobile Game Design, Audio Achievement, Technical Achievement, and Achievement in Art. Finally, the title named Best Game of IGF Mobile will receive a $10,000 Grand Prize. IGF Mobile will also feature all finalist games in playable form within a special pavilion on the Game Developers Conference 2008 show floor, alongside the main IGF Pavilion, on February 20-22, 2008.

A statement from the organizers of the event on the official website explains: "We believe that there are great, innovative indie games out there which use the unique advantages of handheld hardware, from Gamevil's Nom and Skipping Stone for cellphones through DS games such as 5th Cell's Drawn To Life or even group games such as Pac-Manhattan, and we're delighted to set up a new awards to help honor titles such as these.""

So, elaborating on the paragraph above - there are two or three angles from which this sister IGF competition should be good for indie developers. Firstly, there really are some great overlooked cellphone games out there - from developers like Capybara Games and others - which these awards should highlight in the context of GDC and the Independent Games Festival. Secondly, there's the DS, PSP and other handhelds angle - and there are plenty of prototypes or homebrew-like games out there which deserve honoring - heck, maybe that Shantae DS title I was drooling over the other day will enter.

Finally - and this is the particularly interesting 'augmented' angle - there are all kinds of cool game design things you can do if you have a handheld device and other add-ons such as GPS, a camera, Internet connectivity and so on.

A few examples from games big and small - Final Fantasy: Before Crisis for cellphones had a camera-based materia collecting feature, in which: "The goal is to photograph something that contains the predefined colors that will produce new materia. For example, photographing something that is predominantly red will yield a Fire materia." Awesome idea. Elsewhere, there's other neat concepts like the solar sensor in Konami's Boktai and even Gizmondo's (!) augmented reality project, using the camera and overlaying computer-generated art based on a grid.

Encouraging innovative projects like these - which actually take advantage of the fact that you're holding the game device and carrying it around - is why Nvidia signed up to be a multi-year sponsor and help give out the money to deserving games - who knows, maybe games like these will be created just so they can enter IGF Mobile in subsequent years? Hopefully so!