Nokia's N-Gage can't survive against iPhone, will be shut down

According to Reuters today, Finnish mobile phone maker Nokia will reportedly be shutting down its N-Gage gaming service. The shutdown will come six years after the mobile phone and gaming system hybrid concept debuted and was quickly retired; and nearly four years after it was re-invented as a part of Nokia's smartphone ecosystem, and later integrated with the Ovi platform.

Nokia intends to stop publishing new N-Gage titles and eventually wind down the service by the end of next year. Games will still be a major part of the Ovi platform, available in the Ovi Store under store.ovi.com/games, but the dedicated N-Gage brand is finally being scuttled.

In the N-Gage blog today, the Nokia Games Team tried to explain the reasoning behind the service's closure.

"As mobile gaming evolves and begins to encompass social gaming, we want to offer one store front with an even broader portfolio of games -- games for everyone. It's much more convenient to have one place to get all your mobile games, and this it what Ovi Store provides. Mobile gaming is one of the most popular activities in the Ovi Store, with games being the #2 most downloaded category for premium content," today's blog entry said.

The problem was that the re-designed N-Gage was marketed as a niche product to serious gamers who owned Symbian S60 devices. But after the early failures of the platform (namely its high cost, weak game support, and poorly designed "game deck") the product had little or no appeal to the very niche it was trying to serve.

This failure, coupled with the app store gold rush occurring on all the major smartphone platforms, especially iPhone and iPod Touch, could help de-fragment Nokia's games offerings and help reach a wider audience.

The only thing that is truly going to suffer from this change is the community element associated with the N-Gage Arena, which lets users post high scores, write reviews, and manage their games. After the N-Gage shutdown, games will continue to work, but all the community features in the games will stop functioning after 2010.

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