The N-Gage 2003 Round UpA look at the N-Gage in 2003, from announcement to the Christmas sales, and everything in between. Does the N-Gage's checkered past equal a short-lived or non-existent future?
While almost any N-Gage fan or user knows the average gamer response to the N-Gage if asked would do Dickens' Scrooge proud, the question remains whether the response is justified. What more, will it change? As an N-Gage owner this has bothered me from day one and so, desiring to put this question to rest, I sat down and had a good look at the N-Gage in 2003 and what we know and suspect of what it will be in 2004.
As I sat locked in the rhythms of 1 Giant Leap's "My Culture" the line "everything my forefather's earned in tears" happened by. For all Nokia's work and marketing what has 2003 earned them? They mentioned their new system in early 2003 and debuted it at the year's E3 show in May to very mixed and widely negative reactions. While larger international sites gave it credit for bringing true 3D to portable gaming and for having great potential with it's N-Gage Arena options many smaller sites panned it as "an instant failure that will make the Virtual Boy look like Nintendo's greatest". To add insult to injury many public interviews gave a harsher tone to comments saying things like "I'd look like a tosser with that upside my head...people would laugh and rightly so."
The predominately negative views taken by much of the public were not perceptibly altered by the expensive marketing campaign Nokia launched which unfortunately featured alpha and beta game footage for some titles making many people say the N-Gage was underpowered and a poor performer. Worse still, Sony's foray into portable gaming the PSP was announced and many people decided to take a wait and see approach feeling that Sony's name equaled success and Nokia's a question mark. Nokia continued unfettered with their plans and despite some title delays released their system on October 7th as planned. With a sticker price of 229 pounds in the UK, 299.99 dollars in the US and questionable distribution it made little impact managing as few as 5000 sales it's first week.
Realizing that the video game market was no push over they dropped the price almost immediately in the US by 100 USD and added the "choose 3 free games" option through many retailers. Though this helped they only managed to ship some 400,000 units by year's end selling by some estimates as few as 200,000. The less popular titles like THQ Wireless' MLB Slam! managed as few as 153 sales through the whole of the Christmas season of 2003.
And now here we are marching into February. The less than stellar start Nokia made with the N-Gage in 2003 has been followed with a ghostly quiet January sans releases, which confirmed many opinions that it was not going to happen for Nokia, but are they being counted out of the game too soon? In interviews with many of Nokia's representatives it has been revealed that Nokia is, though not overjoyed with 2003's sales, apparently relatively unconcerned with their underperformance in late 2003 and are simply taking the view that they're in it for the long haul, not the short game. In these interviews Nokia took it further and showed their dedication to success in this arena by announcing that they would release a revision of the N-Gage addressing some design complaints about the first model and a whopping 80 games by year's end. Are they proverbially "talking out of their ass" or is their some fire behind this smoke? Stay tuned to All About N-Gage for next week's "To Be Released Roundup" and see what you think.
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Published by Chris Rydberg at 11:27 UTC, August 12th