The worldwide launch of Nokia’s N-Gage happened at midnight last night. It is now available in over 30,000 stores.
This is an attempt by the mobile phone giant to break into a new market. Though it offers the ability to make wireless phone calls, the N-Gage is primarily a mobile games console, created wo compete with the likes of Nintendo’s GameBoy line and Tapwave’s Zodiac.
Nokia is quite optimistic about this device, predicting it will sell 6 million of them over the next two years. However, the N-Gage has drawn criticism from those who have had a chance to test it, especially for what appear to be some fairly significant design flaws.
An Overview of the N-Gage
The N-Gage allows online, mobile, multiplayer game play. People also can compete against other N-Gage users in the same room via Bluetooth. Games that are available at launch include Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater, Tomb Raider, and many more. These are distributed on MMC cards.
Games play on the device’s 176 by 208 pixel screen, which offers 12-bit color.
In addition to gaming, it also offers a digital music player (MP3/AAC), stereo FM radio, as well as a tri-band GSM 900/1800/1900 mobile phone. It also includes a Web browser, email, and MMS support.
The device is 5.25 wide, 2.75 high, and .8 inches thick. It weighs 4.8 ounces and runs the Symbian OS.
T-Mobile is the only company who has signed up to offer the N-Gage in the U.S. It is available for $300 at Target, Electronics Boutique, Game Stop, and Circuit City, as well as online.
T-Mobile is offering 30 days of free wireless game play and a combined total of $50 worth of free voice and text messaging. After the 30-day trial offer, gamers can sign up for a T-Mobile annual voice plan of their choice and continue throughout 2004 with unlimited access to wireless gaming services for N-Gage at $9.99 per month.
Early reviews of this device have not been positive. For example, gamesindustry.biz said, “In order to put a game into the system, you have to turn the phone off, take the back cover off, remove the battery, slide out the existing game, put the new one in, put the battery back in, replace the back cover, hold down the power button for several seconds, wait for the system to boot up, open the main menu, select the game, open it… And then your game starts loading.”
In addition, the speaker and microphone are located on one edge of the device, and several reviewers have said using it makes you look like you’re talking on a taco.