In 2003 Nokia launched the N-Gage, a taco-shaped video game and mobile phone hybrid. The device was so poorly designed that it got the nickname Frankenphone. The battery actually had to be removed to insert a game cartridge. To make a call, the bulky N-Gage had to be hoisted up to the head and held sideways. Sales were so poor that Nokia stopped making the N-Gage in 2005.
Since then the worldwide market for mobile phone games has blossomed. It is estimated that this year $4 billion worth of mobile game software will be sold to an entertainment starved planet. This number is predicted to double by 2011. Not wanting to be left out of the lucrative market, Nokia is re-launching the N-Gage service on some of its Series 60 smartphones this week. The rest of Series 60 smartphones will be N-Gage compatible by 2008.
Popular game publishers like Electronic Arts, Digital Chocolate and Capcom will develop the software gamers crave.
“With our global reach, it’s important to have strong, well respected global partners,” said Gregg Sauter, Director of Third Party Publishing, Nokia. “For many years, Capcom has been entertaining consumers around the world with exceptional gaming experiences. We’ve now reached a point with mobile technologies where companies like Capcom can deliver a whole new level of mobile entertainment. The N-Gage platform will enable this evolution with devices that deliver enhanced graphics and a development tool kit that allows for online tournaments, communities, multiplayer games and, of course, global distribution.”
Many N-Gage games will allow payers to connect with each other for head-to-head or cooperative play. Games can be downloaded over wirelesss networks or through the internet to a user’s PC. Games installed from a PC will contain larger files for an enhanced audio and visual experience. If Nokia is getting back into the game business after its failed Frankenphone, there must be a pile of money to be made from mobile games.