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Nokia starts to shift N-Gage from console to platform

Technology to be included in smart phones

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How ironic. When Nokia launched the N-Gage back in 2003, it insisted the device was a console first and a phone second. But you're a phone company, we said, of course it's a phone that plays games. No, Nokia insisted, N-Gage is a handheld games platform that just happens to allow you to make calls, send texts etc.

How the world has changed since then. Nokia's attitude to N-Gage certainly has, no doubt because the console/phone/whatever singularly failed to set the mobile gaming world alight. It took Nokia over a year to sell 1m N-Gages - Nintendo shipped that many DS hanhelds in a month.

Which is why the Finnish giant is now promising to build N-Gage's gaming component into a raft of smart phones due to ship early next year following a September 2005 launch.

Essentially, the technology that lifted the N-Gage above Nokia's handsets is now ready to be included in phones as well as consoles, the company claimed. In short, what made the N-Gage a console rather than a phone, as Nokia originally maintained, now makes it just another phone among thousands of others. So it really is about phones and not about consoles.

Not that Nokia said it was pulling the plug on the device. Presumably there are folk out there who want a console-styled phone to meet their mobile gaming needs. But if regular smart phones deliver the same functionality - not to mention the availability of Sony PSPs and Nintendo DSes, which do the gaming and media thing better - there's certainly less need to offer such a device.

"We can continue with our N-Gage offering while helping to drive the adoption of mobile connected gaming at a broader level," said Gerard Wiener, Director and General Manager for Games at Nokia. But that's 'can', not necessarily 'will'. With developer and broad hardware support maintained, Nokia can now drop N-Gage without the world saying 'told you so' - or, rather, N-Gage becomes a games platform rather than a gaming device.

In the short term, Wiener has said in the recent past that the N-Gage QD is due for an update. How necessary that is now, is open to question. Indeed, Nokia took the axe to its multimedia division earlier this year in a bid to cut costs. The multimedia division incorporates Wiener's games operation.

And what of all the games developers Nokia persuaded to support its mobile gaming enterprise? By moving N-Gage functionality into other devices, they at least get the opportunity to sell to a potentially much larger audience. You haven't wasted your investment, honest. ®

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