After the original N-Gage phone-game system crossover failed to meet expectations, Nokia halted production of the unit in 2005. The phone had been the subject of criticism over its bulky size, awkward handling and odd design quirks, one of which necessitated the removal of the unit's battery in order to insert a game cartridge.
The resurgence of the mobile gaming market, however, led Nokia to begin strategizing a return to the market soon after the original N-Gage cancellation. The company brought in Ideo, a design firm who had previously worked with Apple and Palm. The N-Gage team spent time with Ideo designers throughout 2005 and 2006, visiting six international cities to investigate the state of gaming on mobile phones. Many features of the new N-Gage service arose as a result of that study.
The game selection will lean toward casual gamers, and although Nokia has not yet released pricing details, customers will be able to try games at no charge before committing to buy them. The service will also make it easier for gamers to play with their friends by showing them what games are installed on their friends' phones, as well as whether they're online, and the ability to see how many points a person has and how much time he invests in a particular game will make it easy to seek out opponents of comparable skill levels.
Nokia currently holds 37 percent of the worldwide cellphone market, and generated revenues of $54 billion last year alone. It has sold over 125 million of its Series 60 smartphones worldwide; N-Gage will debut on a few of those models next week, with the service rolled out to the rest of the line over the following year.