Friday, June 16, 2006

Steve Palley: Nokia's New Game Plan

Steve Palley at Foci Mobile delivers his usual high-quality, in-depth analysis about the mobile gaming scene. This time he turns his eye towards Nokia (NOK) and its N-Gage platform. He looks at what went wrong in the past and what the company is doing to "earn back its good name in mobile gaming--and this time, it sounds like it might be workable."

After speaking with Gregg Sauter, Director of Games Publishing in Nokia’s Multimedia Division, Palley writes:

the comeback is staked upon a Nokia-developed application called Play, an application for the Symbian mobile OS which will be available for any Nokia Series 60 smart phone. Through Play, you’ll be able to access all of the functionality presently associated with Nokia’s mobile multiplayer service, N-Gage Arena, as well as purchase and download new games and demos. In essence, Play sounds like it will be a downloadable N-Gage dashboard with some kind of emulator or enabler included. Sauter told me that the hard launch--with full carrier support, and, presumably, a fresh marketing initiative--will come midway through next year, but that some of the new platform’s features will be available before then.
Palley then mentioned that:
Nokia will release new “game optimized devices” that feature landscape-oriented screens, game controls, and so forth. Also, some of these devices will sport ATI hardware video acceleration; Sauter confirmed that this will mean the bifurcation of the platform between accelerated and non-accelerated games, at least temporarily. Although Sauter cautioned against assuming that hardware acceleration will soon reach the mass market, he went on to say that he expected accelerated devices to become “a more visible presence” by 2008. As Sauter put it, Nokia “sees a lot of promise” in high-end devices, since the company’s data indicates that Series 60 device owners purchase five times more mobile games than other users; Nokia’s gaming content will be priced at a “premium” level as well, which has excited Nokia’s publishing and carrier partners.
Palley concludes with:
It may be hard to believe that Nokia still has publishing partners after the N-Gage disaster, but there’s one important thing to remember: the N-Gage may have flopped, but Nokia is still one of the largest corporations in the world. In fact, it ranks two spots ahead of Coca-Cola on Forbes Magazine’s latest list! Money can’t buy you love, but it’ll certainly pay for more chances to win the market’s heart. Nokia is older, wiser, and almost ready for Round 2. In 2007, they are sure to come out punching.