N-Gage gets a makeover



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1 April 2005 | 0

When Nokia’s N-Gage slid into the mobile gaming market last year, it was touted as a GameBoy Advance killer. A few design limitations and a lacklustre game library hindered that goal, but the company took notes and has released a sharper second effort, the QD GameDeck.

This curvier version of the N-Gage doesn’t look much different from the original combination mobile phone and game-playing product. It is 20 per cent smaller and sports many design upgrades.

The major complaint about the original N-Gage was that users had to remove the battery to swap games. The upgraded device has an external hot-swappable MMC slot that automatically starts up the game when you plug it in. There’s also a quick-start button so you can immediately go into gameplay from anywhere in the device. Battery life is also extended to support up to ten hours of gameplay and two to four hours of talk time.

‘The screen itself is brighter,’ said a Nokia representative. ‘We received very, very high marks on that, but we’ve continued to make improvements.’

The original N-Gage supported wireless gaming via Bluetooth and the N-Gage Arena, but didn’t take advantage of this feature as much as it could have, says Michael Goodman, senior analyst with US firm The Yankee Group.

‘If they can truly take advantage of the wireless connectivity, the N-Gage QD could really distinguish itself,’ he says.

Titles for the original N-Gage also skewed younger than the device itself, Goodman adds. ‘Nokia tried to retarget the market for handheld game systems, taking it from adolescent male and shifting to an older market,’ Goodman says. ‘The strategy was there, but the execution was lacking.’ This time, things are different. Nokia plans more than 50 titles for the QD.

Both the QD GameDeck and original N-Gage can play existing N-Gage games and according to Nokia, new games will also run on both systems. The company says 60 to 75 per cent of them will have wireless support.

They might not all feature real-time gaming, but they get around it with features like ‘shadow racing’ in Tony Hawk Pro Skater, where the second gamer races against the first gamer’s performance. ‘It’s not real-time head-to-head, but it’s still about the competition. Certainly, networks are going to improve and the device itself will improve with them,’ the company said.

Meanwhile, players can compete online in other ways. In Tiger Woods ’04, you’ll be able to play and compete with up to four players via Bluetooth and Arena in live competition, and as the game is turn-based it works in multiplayer.

Nokia is also looking at mobile massively multiplayer online role-playing games, adding another M to the MMORPGs.
Many of the new titles will be geared toward an older demographic.



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