KITTILA, FINLAND: With the motto ‘games for everyone’ and drawing on the huge popularity in online social networking, Nokia has entered the mobile-games market — both as a publisher and games developer — with N-Gage, using the N-series phone as a platform.
Speaking at the launch, Jaakko Kaidesoja, games director for Nokia, explained that with the ubiquity of the mobile handset, the only barrier to getting people to play games on a phone, as opposed to a dedicated games console, was downloading and discovering them.
N-Gage is an application that will sit on the N-series phones and act as a portal in which users download games, share scores with friends, browse through new and upcoming releases and create their own gaming profile.
Unlike Java-based games for mobile handsets, N-Gage games are developed specifically for Nokia by the company itself, as well as by third-party developers such as Vivendi and EA Digital, with titles ranging from casual gaming in the form of Sims Pets to Star Wars and Crash Bandicoot.
The games are available to the user on a time or level-based trial before purchase and will be commercially available to download from early next year, with prices set between €7 and €10 and less for developing countries.
This service will begin rolling out next week on a trial basis involving N81 users from which Nokia will receive feedback through www.ngage.com, where those with ‘first access’ to the games can chat with developers.
A handful of games will be released next week including World Series Poker, Fifa 08, Dogz and Brothers in Arms.
Kaidesoja explained that gamers will be able to purchase either through credit card or operator billing, with over 50 operators in 20 countries already signed up. Games can be downloaded over the phone or through the website from a PC and then side-loaded onto the handset.
Mark Ollila, part of the Nokia Games Publishing team, said that a unique aspect of some of these games is the ability for the user to express themselves through social networking with user-created games.
He gave examples of how User-Generated Content can be used to create mobile mini-games: a player can take pictures on the handset’s camera and then create a picture-puzzle game for example, which can then be shared with friends.
Another community-oriented game developed by Nokia is Creebies, which hopes to appeal to the female market and has social networking at its core, allowing players to create a virtual pet that interacts with other players.
One of the most important aspects of N-Gage, said Nick Malaperiman, head of third-party games for Nokia, is that big brands such as EA, Gameloft, Vivendi, and THQ Wireless, which makes create the Star Wars games, have come on board, legitimising the mobile as a gaming platform.
By Marie Boran