While at a games conference recently, John Romero gave a Russian web site a first glimpse of the N-Gage 2, an upcoming gaming-oriented smart phone from Nokia.
Mr. Romero is one of the best-known game developers in the world, as he had a big part in developing both Doom and Quake for id Software. He now runs Monkeystone Games, which develops titles for mobile platforms, including Palm OS, Pocket PC, and Symbian. In short, if Nokia is going to give anyone an advance look at the N-Gage 2, it’s John Romero.
A Poor Beginning
The original N-Gage 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 to compete with the likes of Nintendo’s GameBoy line and Tapwave’s Zodiac.
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 people look like they’re talking on a taco.
Last week, John Riccitiello, COO of Electronic Arts, the world’s largest video games developer, told DMeurope.com that the N-Gage is a “dog”, and that his company has sold very few games for it.
Nokia predicted at the device’s launch that it will sell 6 million of N-Gages over the next two years. Recently, Jorma Ollila, Nokia’s CEO, confessed that sales of the device have not met company expectations.
A Better Future?
Though the current N-Gage appears to be fatally flawed, Mr. Romero, the games developer, told the Russian games site Compulenta that the next generation model will be much better.
Users will be able to easily switch out game cards, for one thing. And it will allow people to make phone calls with the device flat against their heads, ending the “sidetalking” jokes.
Mr. Romero also said the N-Gage 2 will will be smaller and thinner than its predecessor, which is 5.25 inches wide, 2.75 inches high, and .8 inches thick.
He didn’t indicate when the N-Gage 2 will be available or at what cost.
In the past, Nokia has said it intends to keep developing the N-Gage platform.