There's a businessman in Paris that has an N-Gage 2. An art school graduate in Rome has one, too. And so does the night watchman at Big Ben. The only catch is that none of them know it yet. And that's what Nokia is hoping will put the next generation N-Gage in a stronger position than the original effort.
The new N-Gage is actually not one specific device -- it's a service that will be "turned on" this autumn in Europe and Asia, the first territories to experience what is essentially N-Gage 2.0. Not entirely unlike Microsoft's Live Anywhere initiative, unveiled at E3 in 2006, the new N-gage exists within the operating system of handsets. Purely software instead of hardware, Nokia cuts the heaviest tether than held down the original attempt at a gaming-centric handset.
IGN Wireless spoke to Nokia's Jaakko Kaidesoja at GDC Mobile on Monday about the steps the company is taking to avoid the fate of the first N-Gage, which was not a worldwide failure, as was often painted in American outlets; over three million devices were sold around the world.
One of the first things Nokia did was listen clearly to users and critics. "They wanted discrete gaming ergonomics," said Kaidesoja, referencing the much-maligned first N-gage model, but also the updated QD. The problem with a static device like the QD is that customers cannot "leverage the latest technologies, like a camera." By ditching the frozen-in-time N-Gage, Nokia can keep the service alive as consumer tastes in handsets change.