Nokia targets game boys (and girls) with launch of hand-held console

6 Feb 2003

Nokia [NYSE: NOK], one of the world’s largest telecoms equipment manufacturers, yesterday unveiled the new product that every Snake-obsessed teenager has been waiting for: the N-Gage hand-held console, or ‘game deck’ as the Finnish company would rather it was known. Launched in a blaze of publicity at tandem events in both London and Sydney, the N-Gage is a gaming device with a distinctly mobile phone bent aimed at tapping further into the lucrative under-35 age group that Nokia’s 3300 and 3500 range of handsets have targeted so successfully. The device will launch in time for the Christmas shopping season and is pitched as Nokia’s rival to Japanese manufacturer Nintendo’s Gameboy Advance, the runaway leader in the hand-held console market estimated to be worth USD4 billion a year. With the mobile handset market rapidly reaching saturation point, Nokia is increasingly looking to broaden its range of products after warning that its revenues in 2003 will continue to slow despite posting a better than expected profit last year.

The N-Gage works as a fully-functioning GSM mobile and also boasts an impressive spec gaming-wise, with a backlit 176×208 pixel screen capable of displaying up to 4096 colours at once. But the real selling point is its wireless features that will enable users to download java-based games as well as compete against other players in the same room over a wireless Bluetooth connection or use the mobile network to engage with others further afield. Nokia has signed a development deal with T-Mobile to begin offering N-Gage services. The device also features a full range of PDA-style features including MP3 playback, built-in FM radio, email, instant messaging, XHTML web browsing and 64 megabytes of memory built in. With a host of big name publishers including Sega, THQ, Activision and Eidos already signed up to bring the likes of Sonic the Hedgehog and Lara Croft to N-Gage screens, Nokia is confident the device will not follow the path trod by so many into gaming obscurity. Pricing details have yet to be confirmed but the N-Gage is expected to retail at a level slightly above the USD70 of the Gameboy Advance.