Wooing gamers, Nokia unveils N-Gage

Nokia Corp. unveiled its N-Gage on Wednesday and said the company’s foray into handheld gaming marks a new path for the world’s largest mobile phone maker.

The half-moon-shaped device that measures 15 centimetres by 5 centimetres boasts a colour screen and GSM technology that will make it usable in Nokia’s major markets, including the United States.

Pekka Rantala, a Nokia vice president, said it will be available around the world during the fourth quarter of 2003. He said the retail price would likely depend on whether providers and game publishers decide to subsidise the N-Gage.

The devices will be sold through major retail outlets, including video game sellers, as well as through mobile phone shops.

At the unveiling in London, Nokia lined up five software partners—Sega Corp., Eidos Interactive, Activision Inc., THQ Int.
and Taito Corp. It also said wireless operator T-Mobile, a unit of Deutsche Telekom, committed to offering the game device in its markets.

The N-Gage could even help usher in serious multiplayer mobile gaming, giving the battered wireless industry a needed revenue boost.

It has a 4 096-colour active-matrix display and built-in camera for video and still images. It offers Short Message Service text messaging and Internet access, and has built-in Bluetooth technology for short-range wireless connectivity. It also has a built-in FM radio and MP3 player.

Games will be sold on multimedia cards, tiny, wafer-thin storage devices that are used in PDAs and digital cameras. New levels, high scores and pictures can be stored and swapped among N-Gage users and additional software can be downloaded using the built-in GPRS.

With the built-in Bluetooth and GPRS games can play each other from across the room or across the country. But whether Nokia, which sold more than 170-million handsets last year, can compete with Nintendo remains to be seen. Nintendo’s Gameboy Advance was introduced in 2001 and as of last September, had sold nearly 24-million worldwide. - Sapa-AP

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