N-Gage (service)

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N-Gage
New ngage logo.jpg
Developer Nokia
Type Mobile gaming service
Launch date February 4, 2008 (pre-release)
April 3, 2008 (full release)
Platform Nokia Symbian S60 smartphones
Status Discontinued
Website www.n-gage.com (now redirects to Ovi Store)
The application running on a Nokia N81.

The N-Gage service was Nokia's mobile gaming platform that is available for several Nokia Symbian S60 smartphones. N-Gage provided lots of high-quality games into an application running on compatible S60 Nokia smartphones, with better graphics than normal mobile games and delivering a greater experience. It takes its name from the N-Gage gaming mobile.

On 30 October 2009, Nokia announced that no new N-Gage games will be produced, and the N-Gage service had ceased at the end of 2010.[1] [1] A total of 49 games were released for it. Nokia will continue its gaming efforts on Ovi, where Nokia users can access the Ovi Store to download games and other content.

The following phones are officially compatible with the N-Gage platform: Nokia N78, N79,[2] N81, N81 8GB, N82, N85,[2] N86,[3] N86 8MP, N95, N95 8GB, N96, N97,[4] Nokia 5320 XpressMusic,[5] Nokia 5630 XpressMusic,[6] Nokia 5730 XpressMusic [7] Nokia 6210 Navigator,[8] 6710 Navigator,[9] 6720 Classic, E52,[10] E55 and E75.[11] Due to memory issues, hinted in an interview in February 2008,[12] support for the Nokia N73, N93 and N93i was cancelled.[13]

Overview[edit]

The new N-Gage, also referred to as N-Gage Next Generation, 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.

A public beta test of the N-Gage application took place from 4 February 2008 to 27 March 2008[14] and the client was then released on 3 April the same year for the Nokia N81, N81 8GB, N82, N95 and N95 8GB.

Compatibility[edit]

Because N-Gage is a software based solution, the first generation MMC games are not compatible with the new platform,[15] 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 platform do not work on the original N-Gage nor N-Gage QD, adding to the fact that newer S60 software, including the N-Gage client and games[citation needed], aren't binary-compatible with older S60 devices and vice-versa.

First access[edit]

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[dead link], System Rush: Evolution[dead link] and Space Impact Kappa Base[dead link]. Eventually, Nokia also released Tetris[dead link], Block Breaker Deluxe[dead link] and World Series of Poker: Pro Challenge[dead link] 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.

Shortly after being released to the public, the N-Gage installation file was unpacked into components, which can be then installed separately, thus removing N81-only limitation. N-Gage has since been reported working on other Nokia N-series devices, such as N73 and N95. In response, Nokia released an advisory asking users not to install this unsupported version as it could cause errors or other issues.

On 20 March, the N-Gage blog reported that First Access would come to an end on 27 March, though all downloaded games at that time would still be playable through the application until the updated version was released—which occurred on 3 April.

Reception[edit]

There have been a lot of hands-on articles with the First Access client and they all generally reflect both the positive and negative feedback of the official First Access forum, where N81 users shared their thoughts on what was good and what could've been made better—regarding both the launcher itself and the games currently available. The biggest issues at that point was that of players not being able to "activate" a purchased game but still having only the trial version to play. A lot of players have also been reporting connection issues.

Head of New Experience, Nokia Play, Jaakko Kaidesoja had this to say to Pocket Gamer in an interview on 21 February 2008 when asked about what early feedback they had received:[16]

"The feedback has been positive and well received within the company and some critical comments were well received as well. We know it's not perfect yet and there are some features people want more of. Those are the things we want to check and get on the roadmap."

Game reviews[edit]

The games themselves have received an overall good reception all over the Internet ever since the First Access beta, with Hooked On: Creatures of the Deep standing out as the most successful title.

Asphalt 3: Street Rules[dead link]

  • Pocket Gamer - 8/10
  • All About N-Gage - 80/100

Block Breaker Deluxe[dead link]

  • Pocket Gamer - 7/10
  • All About N-Gage - 78/100

Hooked On: Creatures of the Deep[dead link]

  • Pocket Gamer - 9/10
  • All About N-Gage - 86/100
  • Mobile Game FAQs - 92/100

Space Impact Kappa Base[dead link]

  • Pocket Gamer - 8/10

System Rush: Evolution

  • Pocket Gamer - 8/10
  • All About N-Gage - 85/100

Tetris[dead link]

  • Pocket Gamer - 8/10

World Series of Poker: Pro Challenge

  • Pocket Gamer - 5/10

Launch[edit]

After numerous delays and many vague release dates, the N-Gage platform was finally (and also quite suddenly) released to the public on 3 April 2008 through the N-Gage official website, though only five phone models are compatible to begin with. This probably has to do with the older models being less powerful as was pointed out in an interview earlier the same year whereas an N-Gage representative mentioned some memory issues with the N73.[12] The launch titles also changed from six to only five: Asphalt 3: Street Rules[dead link], Brain Challenge[dead link], Hooked On: Creatures of the Deep[dead link] System Rush: Evolution[dead link], and World Series of Poker: Pro Challenge[dead link]. The first two weren't even on the original list but Block Breaker Deluxe[dead link] and Tetris[dead link] instead. The sixth game that was postponed was Space Impact Kappa Base[dead link]. Some hours after the launch, Ikona (the man behind the official N-Gage blog) had this to say about the delay:

"We are currently ensuring Block Breaker Deluxe, Space Impact Kappa Base, and Tetris are running smoothly with our new application. These should be available in the showroom next week or two."

Four days later, on 7 April - Nokia posted their official press release[17] commenting on the release of their new mobile service, and at which point FIFA 08[dead link] also became available for purchase.

With this release, the website also saw a small change in appearance with price tags added to all games available for download, an event calendar, a tab for support on both the application itself and N-Gage compatible devices and much more. Players logged onto the website could now also see their Reputation level, N-Gage level, and gathered N-Gage points.

There was also a release party held at the N-Gage chat room shortly after the release, with several members from the N-Gage team attending to answer any questions asked. A few t-shirts were randomly handed out during the three hour long event and everyone was also promised a few N-Gage points for coming to the "party".

As expected, the launch was not problem-free but numerous people reported having trouble downloading, purchasing and activating games, installing the application and logging on to the N-Gage Arena.

The N-Gage application[edit]

With a user interface that resembles Microsoft’s Xbox Live service, at the top of the N-Gage launcher there are five icons that can be navigated through by simply pressing left and right on the phone’s thumb pad. These represent your games library, profile, friends list, and the showroom—all as explained thoroughly below.

Home[edit]

The launcher welcomes the user with a Home screen where the last game played is shown along with some quick links to your friends, progress (score table), the Featured Game that Nokia wants to "highlight" for this week, and your Inbox for messaging within the launcher.

My Games[edit]

This screen shows all the games that are currently installed on the phone—be it a Trial version or the full game (purchased or rented). The ones that are trial versions have a pink stripe that says "TRIAL" to the far right of the game icon, overlapping what looks somewhat like a battery meter that, once you pay for the game, illustrates your progress with that game. At the bottom of the list of installed games is a quick link (Get More Games) that takes you to the showroom.

Games that are not paid for will show a pop-up every time you play it—asking whether you’d like to try the free trial or either purchase, enter an unlock code (purchased or given through promotions), or rent the game. More on this below.

From this screen, the user may also rate any of the games downloaded from 1 to 5 stars, as well as write a small verdict on it.

My Profile[edit]

The next tab is your profile which shows how many N-Gage points you’ve scored so far from playing, your reputation level (ranging between 1-5 stars), the number of friends you have enlisted, and your chosen avatar/picture to represent you (will display a white silhouette of a person with an orange background per default). Further down is your current status (offline, online or away—the last two can each be assigned with a personal message), N-Gage Point Level, and a list of what games you have played (Gaming History). Selecting one will not only display how many points you’ve gathered within the chosen game—but also show how well your friends are doing with the same game. From here, users are also able to look at what achievements have been unlocked—or Point Pickups as they’re called.

My Friends[edit]

This is where you go to add a friend to your friends list as well as check them all out. Once highlighted, you may choose to view recent conversations with the player, send them a message, view his or her profile, and rate the player. Messages can be sent regardless of whether the player is currently online or not and your friends list can be sorted by name, availability/status, or N-Gage points gathered.

Showroom[edit]

The Showroom displays all games that are available for download as well as Game Extras for expanding a game with extra content, such as downloading new episodes/adventures for the adventure game Dirk Dagger. Games may be browsed by genre, latest arrivals, or just in alphabetical order. Select a game and you’re able to read a small (though maybe not very informative) description of it along with details on how big it is, estimated time for downloading the game, the number of supported players, who the publisher is etc. Here you may also read what other players think of the game and view their ratings.

Payment can be made by either using a credit card or paying through the phone bill (network operator). Apart from actually purchasing a game, there’s also an option of renting one—where you only need to pay a few euro or dollars in order to get full access for a limited time of either 24 hours or a whole week. When purchased, the games are tied to the user’s account and can be re-downloaded if deleted for some reason.

Games can be downloaded directly to the phone over the air (by GPRS or WiFi), or the user may choose to download it to a computer and then install it onto the phone using a USB-cable and Nokia PC Suite.

Awards[edit]

Several of the N-Gage 2.0 games were nominated for International Mobile Gaming Awards in 2007. Two out of three N-Gage 2.0 titles received an award:[18]

ONE by Digital Legends

  • won the Best 3D award

Dirk Dagger and the Fallen Idol by Jadestone

  • won the Best Gameplay award

Hooked On: Creatures of the Deep[dead link] by Infinite Dreams Inc.

  • was nominated for Best Gameplay but did not receive the award

On 8 May 2008, Hooked On: Creatures of the Deep[dead link] won a Games Award during the 2008 Meffy Awards in Cannes.[19]

Updates[edit]

Prior to the closure of N-Gage service,[20] Nokia released updates for the N-Gage application on a regular basis and the first update was made available on 2 October 2008. Dubbed as v1.010_131, this update included the following major changes:

  • There was an issue that occurred when a user reached 10,000 N-Gage Points, the application would exit unexpectedly and refuse to restart. This issue has been addressed.
  • On some devices, if a user had close to fifty friends the application would behave unexpectedly. This issue has been addressed.
  • An issue where Snakes Subsonic on certain devices would exit unexpectedly when hosting a Bluetooth multiplayer match has been addressed
  • An issue where Blockbreaker Deluxe would exit with an error when a user activated Bluetooth has been addressed
  • There was an issue where the WiFi connection changed to a GPRS connection during Operator Billing. This issue has been addressed.
  • There was an issue where certain games would exit unexpectedly if a user selected 'Cancel' during the Get License.
  • There was an issue where a user would launch a game, and during the 'Attempting Login' screen, could not select the 'Cancel' button. This issue has been addressed.
  • There was an error where the N-Gage Arena Rankings could not be accessed using WLAN when the device is in Offline Mode. This error has been addressed.
  • Some localization issues with Spanish and French have been addressed.
  • An issue where the application would freeze unexpectedly when the device is left idle on the N-Gage Arena terms and conditions page has been addressed.
  • A problem with password retrieval has been addressed.

Version 1.20(1459) was released on 13 May 2009 but didn't do much more than eliminate a few bugs. On 18 August 2009, version 1.40(1557) introduced a new start-up icon, welcoming screen, and way of breaking down the installed games. The speed of the application itself was slightly improved as well.

Updating the application may be done through the app itself—by using the "Check for Updates" function on the device, or it can be downloaded in the "Get N-Gage" section on N-Gage.com.

Technical details[edit]

N-Gage games are packaged differently than normal Symbian applications and have the extension ".n-gage" and can only run via the N-Gage application. The game resources are protected by DRM. They cannot use any native Symbian APIs, instead they use a proprietary API from the N-Gage SDK.

The N-Gage API is in fact an extension of the RGA API available in the Open C++ plug-in.[21]

Only select companies are allowed access to the N-Gage SDK. To gain access they first must be approved by Nokia and sign a NDA.

Games library[edit]

As of 23 October 2009, there were 49 games released officially on N-Gage. Many others games were being cancelled with the shutting down of the N-Gage service[20] (see further down).

Currently released titles are:

Some of these games are sequels or remakes or ports of the first generation N-Gage MMC games.

Other games that were reportedly in development but are cancelled include:

Launch titles[edit]

Six games were originally planned to be available for purchase when the service launched, with the possibility of one or two more being added, but only five made it to the launch: Asphalt 3: Street Rules, Brain Challenge, Hooked On: Creatures of the Deep, System Rush: Evolution and World Series of Poker: Pro Challenge.

Available games[edit]

The following list summarizes what games are available for download and purchase as of 23 October 2009.

Title Price Release date
Age of Empires III[22] £8 / €10 28 April 2009
AMF Bowling: Pinbusters![23] £6 / €7 17 June 2009
Asphalt 4: Elite Racing[25] £6 / €10 20 January 2009
Asphalt 3: Street Rules[24] £4 / €7 3 April 2008
Block Breaker Deluxe[26] £4 / €7 25 April 2008
BOOM BLOX[27] £4 / €7 3 December 2008
Bounce Boing Voyage[28] £4 / €7 7 August 2008
Brain Challenge[29] £4 / €7 3 April 2008
Brothers in Arms[30] £4 / €7 15 July 2008
Café Hold’ Em Poker[31] £6 / €7 23 April 2009
Café Sudoku[33] £4 / €7 27 January 2009
Café Solitaire 12-Pack[32] £4 / €7 21 October 2008
Crash Bandicoot Nitro Kart 3D[75] £6 / €10 22 December 2008
Dance Fabulous[34] £4 / €5 9 June 2009
Dirk Dagger and the Fallen Idol[76] £4 / €7 19 August 2008
Dirk Dagger and the Nuclear Zeppelin[76] £4 / €7 15 October 2008
Dogz[39] £4 / €7 25 August 2008
Ducati Moto[40] £4 / €7 18 September 2009
FIFA 08[41] £4 / €7 7 April 2008
FIFA 09[42] £8 / €10 18 November 2008
Guitar Hero World Tour[43] £4 / €7 18 September 2009
Hooked On: Creatures of the Deep[44] £6 / €7 3 April 2008
Mega Monsters[45] £8 / €10 23 October 2009
Metal Gear Solid Mobile[46] £8 / €10 11 December 2008
MONOPOLY Here & Now: The World Edition[50] £6 / €7 3 March 2009
Midnight Pool[47] £4 / €10 27 June 2008
Mile High Pinball[48] £4 / €5 6 May 2008
Million Dollar Poker[77] £6 / €7 30 June 2009
Need for Speed Undercover[51] £6 / €10 17 March 2009
ONE[78] £6 / €10 28 October 2008
Pandemonium[79] £6 / €7 6 May 2009
Powerboat Challenge[52] £4 / €5 23 October 2009
Prince of Persia[53] £6 / €10 11 March 2009
Pro Series Golf[54] £6 / €7 3 July 2008
Real Football 2009[80] £6 / €10 31 March 2009
Reset Generation[81] £4 / €5 4 August 2008
Resident Evil: Degeneration[57] £8 / €10 18 December 2008
Snakes Subsonic[58] £4 / €5 22 May 2008
Space Impact Kappa Base[59] £4 / €5 19 April 2008
Spore Origins[60] £6 / €7 20 May 2009
Star Wars: The Force Unleashed[61] £6 / €7 16 September 2008
System Rush: Evolution[82] £6 / €7 3 April 2008
Tetris[62] £4 / €5 25 April 2008
The Sims 2 Pets[63] £4 / €7 18 June 2008
The Sims 3[64] £6 / €7 14 July 2009
Tiger Woods PGA Tour[65] £8 / €10 23 October 2009
Tomb Raider Underworld[66] £6 / €7 25 August 2009
World Series of Poker: Pro Challenge[67] £8 / €10 3 April 2008
Worms World Party[68] £8 / €10 7 April 2009

Closure of N-Gage[edit]

On 30 October 2009, Nokia announces that no new N-Gage games will be produced, effectively shutting down the N-Gage platform. All N-Gage services, which includes purchasing of games and various online features, had reportedly ceased operation at the end of 2010.[20]

On 31 March 2011 Nokia closed their DRM activation service leaving customers without the possibility to reactivate their purchases in the case of a device format or software update.[83] No transition of their purchases was made to the Ovi store, and no compensation was given because according to their support staff; software purchases are only supported for 1 year.

Some gaming websites e.g. Pocket Gamer[84] link N-Gage's failure to the overwhelming competition it faces from the Apple iPhone, while Ovi Gaming[85] cited poor implementation and support from their parent company, Nokia.

. .

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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