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Nokia N-Gage Dies an Unlamented Death Karishma Sundaram | , 12:30 p.m. Nov. 4, 2009 2009-11-04

Possibly one of Nokia’s craziest ideas which did not pan out the way they expected, the N-Gage has finally got its last curtain call. A week ago, Nokia announced that they are pulling the plug on the N-Gage device and the concept in general. 

Let’s revisit the history of N-Gage: It first started out as a device in its own right. The oddly-shaped phone was aimed at hardcore gamers, and was a startling visual combination of greys and reds. The phone itself was designed to be manipulated with both hands, a directional pad on the right, and the only concession to phones, the alpha numeric keypad, on the left. The strangest feature of the phone was the shape: it was neither symmetrical nor was it ergonomically designed. There was evidently no thought given to the storage of the phone, or how it was to be carried around by the helpless sap that sprung for it.

Then Nokia decided that N-Gage as a device was not doing so well, so they decided to expand the entire concept to an online store of games and have an N-Gage store of sorts on most medium to high-end Nokia phones. Please note that they were available only on Nokia phones, and not all Symbian phones.

The store did not perform as projected, and after dragging out the misery for many more years than we care to enumerate, Nokia has finally seen sense. The new plan is to allow games to be available for about a year, till September 2010, however the gaming component of the phones is now going to be incorporated into Ovi. The Ovi Store is a one-stop centre for all things Nokia, like sharing, synchronization and basically manages all Nokia’s user content interactions.

There were a number of things wrong with the premise of N-Gage, which perhaps struck Nokia in hindsight. Firstly, there was no need for a dedicated gaming phone. Either the gaming component or the phone component should have been scrapped entirely. If they wanted to create a gaming device, the phone component merely restricts the potentiality of the gaming device through parameters like screen size and memory. Plus the additional hardware for telecommunications could have been replaced by more gaming-related hardware for an enhanced user experience. 

The second mistake that Nokia made was to restrict the N-Gage platform to Nokia phones. While they would understandably want to keep their technology and ideas to themselves, it would have made more sense to open up N-Gage to all Symbian devices. As it stood, Nokia owned most of Symbian at that, later to buy the entire operating system. Other Symbian devices, like Sony Ericsson could have had the benefit of a few more sophisticated games, therefore increasing the user base significantly. 

Nokia is thankfully not eschewing the gaming component entirely, but merely integrating it into Ovi. Those people who still want N-Gage games can avail of the temporary reprieve until September 2010. After that, N-Gage will become a distant memory, perhaps more fondly remembered than during its lifetime.

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