Nokia N-Gage Interview

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posted 11/15/2006 by The GN Staff
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A few years back Nokia attempted to enter the mobile gaming market with its Nokia N-Gage gaming phone. The phone wasn’t exactly a success and even though Nokia came out with the much superior Nokia QD, most gamers had written the N-Gage off. Nokia however had other plans and they are back with several new mobile gaming initiatives. This time around Nokia is going to with a more general multimedia device that plays games rather than a dedicated gaming device. Below is our interview with Nokia and their upcoming mobile gaming plans.
 
GamingNexus: Can you introduce yourself and describe your role on the project? How long have you been in the gaming industry and what drew you to your current position?
My name is Jaakko Kaidesoja and I’m heading games at Nokia Multimedia. I’ve been involved with mobile gaming since the first days of the N-Gage platform. I joined the N-Gage team late in 2003 and have been with Nokia for 12 years. I’ve always had a great interest towards gaming and obviously when I got the chance in 2005 to head the team I was eager to take it. I have great faith in our current gaming strategy and it's a privilege to be able to follow the fast developments of mobile gaming and mobile multimedia from such close proximity and to be able to influence the market.

GamingNexus: Given the lack of the success of the original N*Gage platform, was there ever any thought of abandoning gaming on cell phones all together? Why did you decide retain a brand name that carries a lot of baggage instead of coming up with something new?
Jaakko Kaidesoja: Nokia sees mobile gaming as a core part of the mobile entertainment experience we are offering to consumers. With our huge installed base of devices, marketing, distribution and development support, we have the infrastructure, expertise and past N-Gage learnings, to create a comprehensive mobile gaming experience. Especially when assessing some of the current bottlenecks in the industry I’m confident that we can bring great value to our consumers and to the industry.
 
N-Gage stands for high quality games, and while we all know the shortcomings of the first device, the next generation platform offering and N-Gage Arena complemented with our great Nokia Nseries and S60 device line-up is something of which we are justifiably proud. There are 2.7 million fans out there, which is a great starting point to getting more fans.
 
GamingNexus: Cell phone gaming is something that is huge market outside the US and is finally starting to become more mainstream in the US. Why do you think the adoption of cell gaming has been slower here?
Jaakko Kaidesoja: Cell phone adoption (and the use of mobile services like gaming) have generally been slower in the US. It’s not down to any single factor, but rather is a combination of things like the role of carriers, the confusing billing structure, a more “internet” oriented mindset and other factors. But we see in the US, like in other markets, that if you make it easy to find high quality games and other content, people will get on board.
 
GamingNexus: With the launch of Snap Mobile, the expansion of the N*Gage platform, and now the agreement with EA Mobile, can you provide an overview of the Nokia gaming strategy?
Jaakko Kaidesoja:Consumers are demanding great graphics, great content and great game play and we’re listening. We want to offer choice, so with N-Gage we’re offering a comprehensive mobile gaming experience where consumers can easily find, buy, play and manage great quality mobile games on a range of Nokia S60 devices.
The casual, mass market positioning of SNAP Mobile and SNAP Mobile’s games are an extension of Nokia’s connected mobile gaming offerings, focusing more on the connected Java space. Our N-Gage platform focuses on the high-end of the mobile gaming space.
 
GamingNexus: Will future N*Gage games be only be offered as downloads instead of something that you purchase in a store? 
Jaakko Kaidesoja: We’re exploring various distribution methods and downloading digital content directly is one method we’re considering. We’ve started to sell existing N-Gage games over the internet (check out http://www.n-gage.com/gameshop) and we are learning a lot about how people want to be able to purchase their mobile games. We also aim for choice here so we will adapt our distribution to the market conditions but as of today the digital distribution seems to be the way to go.
 
GamingNexus: What are the biggest barriers in cell phone gaming right now? How is Nokia planning on addressing them?
Jaakko Kaidesoja: Again, I don’t think that there is a single barrier, but rather a number of hurdles that make it difficult for the mobile gaming industry to get to the next level. Right now, it’s very hard to buy a game and know for sure that it will work on your phone, not to mention if it’s any good! It’s also hard to know how much you will be charged. For game developers there is a huge effort in producing sometimes hundreds of different versions of the same game for different handsets. Additionally, try and buy is not enabled on a wide scale and to ask consumers to purchase before they know what they get is something we would like to avoid.
 
What we are doing with N-Gage is making it easy to find, buy, play and manage great quality mobile games. This will happen through an easy to use application on your device. When you buy a game from Nokia, you know that it will work and that it’s going to be great quality. You can also try the games before you decide to buy them or you can just rent it for short time if you like. For developers, we’re also making it easy for them to create fantastic games that will work on a range of devices and for publishers the N-Gage platform will offer a clear revenue opportunity through large installed base and great user experience.
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