|Type||Handheld game console and Mobile phone|
|Generation||Sixth generation era|
|Retail availability||7 October 2003|
|Units sold||3 million (as of 30 July 2007)|
|CPU||104 MHz ARM 920T|
|Storage capacity||MMC, 3.4 MB internal memory (1st gen N-Gage)|
|Connectivity||HSCSD, GPRS, Bluetooth|
|Online services||N-Gage Arena|
N-Gage attempted to lure gamers away from the Game Boy Advance by including mobile phone functionality. This was unsuccessful, partly because the buttons, designed for a phone, were not well-suited for gaming and when used as a phone the original N-Gage was described as resembling a "taco".
In 2005, Nokia announced that it would move its N-Gage games capabilities onto a series of smartphones. These Symbian devices have been available since early 2007, and a pre-release version of the N-Gage application allowing users to purchase and download games was made available for download from the official N-Gage website on 4 February 2008. The full version of the N-Gage service was released to the public on 3 April 2008. On 30 October 2009, Nokia pronounced the end of the N-Gage service at the end of 2010.
In the late 1990s, gamers increasingly carried both mobile phones and handheld game consoles. Nokia spotted an opportunity to combine these devices into one unit. Nokia announced in November 2002 that they will develop the N-Gage, a device that integrated these two devices. Instead of using cables, multiplayer gaming was accomplished with Bluetooth or the Internet (via the N-Gage Arena service). The N-Gage also included MP3 and Real Audio/Video playback and PDA-like features into the system.
With a launch price of US $299, the N-Gage was not commercially popular. In its first weeks of availability in the United States, it was outsold by the Game Boy Advance 100 to 1. Within 17 days of the deck's release, popular retailers GameStop and Electronics Boutique began offering $100 rebates on the deck's price.
The poor sales performance can be attributed to the poor selection of games compared to its competitors and its cost at launch; it was more than twice as expensive as a Game Boy Advance SP on release day.
Besides its gaming capabilities, the N-Gage was a Series 60 smartphone, running Symbian OS 6.1, with features similar to those of the Nokia 3650 (it does not have an integrated camera, however). It was able to run all Series 60 software (other than those that require a camera), and Java MIDP applications as well. Its main CPU was an ARM Integrated (ARMI) compatible chip (ARM4T architecture) running at 104 MHz, the same as the Nokia 7650 and 3650 phones.
As of August 2007, it was estimated that Nokia had shipped more than two million N-Gage game decks. The "N-Gage" brand name still had a poor reputation within the gaming media and the few consumers who recognized the N-Gage brand, due to the weakness of the system's first games and the original model's limitations. Many gamers were unaware of the later QD redesign. The situation had not improved either with the arrival of the PlayStation Portable and Nintendo DS handhelds. As of September 2005, Nokia had more than 50 games available for the system.
While the N-Gage did not have any significant financial successes, it did have a handful of critical successes. Pocket Kingdom: Own the World received a handful of glowing reviews when it was released, and Pathway to Glory was Nokia's first self-published success. These games came perhaps too late to have much effect in improving the perception of the N-Gage hardware itself in the eyes of consumers or press.
In January 2005, UK sales-tracking firm ChartTrack dropped the N-Gage from its regular ELSPA chart, commenting that "The N-Gage chart, though still produced, is of little interest to anyone. Sales of the machine and its software have failed to make any impact on the market at all." Although only directly reflective of the UK market, this was interpreted by some as a serious blow to the N-Gage as a viable gaming platform. Despite this, Nokia reaffirmed their commitment to the N-Gage as a platform, to the point where a new version of the hardware was rumored after GDC 2005.
February 2005 saw Nokia appoint Gerard Wiener, formerly of Sega Europe, to the post of Director and General Manager for Games at Nokia. Wiener steered Nokia away from looking at the N-Gage as primarily being a games console to "this is a mobile phone that is great for playing games on." This strategy, along with targeting niche franchises such as the table-top Warhammer 40,000 series, the Rifts RPG series, and The Settlers of Catan board game, has kept sales of the N-Gage healthy and earned the platform a modicum of respect from some quarters of the media. It should be noted that this change coincided with the initial releases of the Sony PSP and Nintendo DS.
The last game to be released in the US for the system was Civilization in March 2006 according to Metacritic.com. In November 2006, Nokia released its last game for the N-Gage QD - combat racer Payload.
The system continues to be sold in the Chinese and Indian markets; its sales continue to rise steadily.
There is some disagreement in sources about the actual number of N-Gage decks sold. Nokia initially claimed 400,000 sales in the first two weeks the deck was available. However, independent market research firms Chart-Track and Arcadia Research claimed that the N-Gage had sold only 5,000 decks in the United States in that time, and 800 decks in the UK. Critics suggested Nokia was counting the number of decks shipped to retailers, not the number actually purchased by consumers. Nokia later admitted this was the truth.
In 2004, Nokia claimed in a press release that it had shipped its millionth deck, represented as a company milestone despite falling short of the company's initial projection of six million decks by the end of 2004. However, this number shipped does not give a reliable picture of the actual sales of the deck. Nokia ultimately shipped 2 million N-Gage decks by 2007.
The original phone's taco-shaped design was considered clumsy: to insert a game, users had to remove the phone's plastic cover and remove the battery compartment as the game slot was next to it. Another clumsy feature was the speaker and microphone being located on the side edge of the phone. This often resulted in many describing it as talking into a "taco phone" or "Sidetalking", or simply that they had one very large ear, because the user held the edge of the phone against the cheek in order to talk into it.
The new N-Gage, also referred to as N-Gage Next Gen, N-Gage 2.0 or the N-Gage platform/application, saw a change in concept as Nokia explained to the world during E3 2005 that they were planning on putting N-Gage inside several of their smartphone devices - rather than releasing a specific device (although their N81 model with its two dedicated gaming-buttons next to the screen is being marketed as a phone built for gaming). Working behind closed doors, it took a little more than a year before Nokia actually started showing off next-gen titles such as System Rush: Evolution and Hooked On: Creatures of the Deep, with the fighting game ONE perhaps being the most visually impressive - even making use of motion capture.
On 4 February 2008, after several delays ever since the beginning of 2007, the new N-Gage platform was released to the public - though limited only to users of Nokia’s N81 device. This period of time was referred to as "First Access" and only a public test of the client which could be downloaded for free from the N-Gage website. While not the final version, the user had access to most of the features that the new application had to offer along with three games to try out: Hooked On: Creatures of the Deep, System Rush: Evolution and Space Impact Kappa Base. Eventually, Nokia also released Tetris, Block Breaker Deluxe and World Series of Poker: Pro Challenge for the users to try out. None of the games are entirely free but all offers a limited trial for testing purposes. In order to experience the full game - it has to be either purchased or rented. First Access ended on 27 March 2008  and on 3 April 2008, Nokia released the full version of the N-Gage application.
Because the N-Gage mobile gaming service is a software based solution, the first generation MMC games are not forward compatible, though some games are making a comeback in form of a sequel (e.g. System Rush: Evolution) or a remake/port (e.g. Mile High Pinball). Similarly, games developed for this next-gen N-Gage will not work on the original N-Gage nor N-Gage QD models.
So far, the N-Gage website has the following devices listed as being compatible with the new N-Gage platform: Nokia N81, N81 8GB, N73, N78, N82, N95, N95 8GB, N93, N93i, N96, N97, N85, N79, Nokia 5320 XpressMusic, Nokia 5630 XpressMusic and Nokia 5730 XpressMusic.
On 2 November 2009, it was announced that the N-Gage service would continue through 2010 before being shut down for good. This means Nokia will stop shipping Nokia phones with the N-Gage application installed. Nokia has been announcing its OVI store as a replacement service, which will be more comparable and competitive to Apple's iTunes Store and Microsoft's Zune Marketplace, an online store that will not only sell games but applications, media content, etc.
Demos and games (first generation)
Before the launch of Nokia's first in-house N-Gage title, Pathway to Glory, a one level demo of the game was released to journalists to allow them to sample the game, and understand the concepts behind the turn based wargame. This demo was subsequently placed on the N-Gage.com website as a free download. Undaunted by the 16mb download size, fans jumped on the Pathway to Glory demo. The success of the download paved the route for future titles.
There are fifty-eight full titles available for N-Gage, however only 56 of these saw North American releases. The titles that were not released in North America are : Flo Boarding (Germany and UK only), Sega Rally (Australia and Brazil only). All but two of these titles (Payload and Snakes) were available for retail purchase. These are:
- "Get out and play - with N-Gage games in your Nokia device". Nokia. Retrieved 2 February 2008.
- "Let the sales begin! Nokia N-GageTM game deck sales to start". Nokia. Retrieved 7 October 2008.
- Blake Snow (30 July 2007). "The 10 Worst-Selling Handhelds of All Time". GamePro.com. Archived from the original on 12 October 2007. Retrieved 17 January 2008.
- "N-Gage Game Deck Tech Specs". Nokia. Retrieved 2 February 2008.
- "N-Gage QD Game Deck Tech Specs". Nokia. Archived from the original on 15 January 2008. Retrieved 2 February 2008.
- "Hold On, My Taco is Ringing Nokia says it has the phone for Gen Y", "CNN.com" 8 December 2003
- Saylor, Michael (2012). The Mobile Wave: How Mobile Intelligence Will Change Everything. Perseus Books/Vanguard Press. p. 81.
- "N-Gage First Access Begins!". N-Gage Blog. Retrieved 5 February 2007.[dead link]
- "N-Gage First Access". Nokia. Retrieved 5 February 2007.[dead link]
- "A New Day for N-Gage". Nokia. Retrieved 3 April 2008.
- "The N-Gage Doesn't" Game Now, January 2004. Retrieved 5 May 2007.
- Smith, David. "N-Gage Moves Under 5,000 Units" 1UP, October 2003. Retrieved 5 May 2007
- Smith, David. "US Retailers Cut N-Gage Price". 1UP, October 2003. Retrieved 5 May 2007.
- "Play It Again, Nokia. For the 3rd Time.". 27 August 2007. The New York Times. Retrieved 27 August 2007.
- "Nokia figures claim massive N-Gage sales". October 2003. The Register UK. Retrieved 5 May 2007.
- "Nokia ships one million N-Gage game decks", "Nokia.com", 1 September 2004
- "The 7 Deadly Sins of N-Gage", GameSpy.com, 16 February 2004
- "N-Gage First Access Ending Soon". N-Gage Blog. Retrieved 20 March 2007.[dead link]
- Nokia N-Gage FAQ
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