Nokia Opens N-Gage Site for Business--and Pleasure

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Nokia's N-gage Internet service platform is up and running, allowing users of its smart phones to download games.

"We are live! The games, the devices, and the community are all here for you to finally get your teeth into. There will be an official announcement on Monday, but for you, the N-Gage faithful we wanted to let you know we're up and running" said the phone company in its N-gage blog.

At first owners of Nokia's N81 8GB, N81 SD, N82, N95, and N95 8GB phones will be able to use the N-Gage platform and download games. More phones are on the way, according to Nokia.

According to the Finnish phone giant there is a lot interest for gaming on mobile phones.

"We did a survey in England and 90 percent wanted to play games, but very few had actually bought a game for their phone," said Christophe Joyau, responsible for services at Nokia in Scandinavia.

People have been put off mobile gaming because there is nowhere to try games, gaming experiences have been poor, and the games are difficult to use, but all these problems have been solved with the new platform, he said.

Gaming isn't virgin territory for Nokia. It has tried to break into the lucrative gaming market before, and failed. The first N-gage, a handheld gaming device that also worked as a phone, launched in 2003, and bombed.

"From that we learned that customers, even if they are interested in games, want to choose between a variety of phones," said Joyau.

His favorites in the current line-up are the N81, because of its dedicated buttons, and the N95 8GB, because of its screen size.

"But we also leaned some good things: for one thing, community is very important, and therefore N-gage Arena is a big part of the platform," he said.

N-gage Arena allows members to play against one another and to discuss games.

If Nokia wants to succeed this time around, content is king.

"It needs a lot of good games, made by professional gaming studios, to become a success," said Kacper Antonius, editor at Swedish gaming magazine Level.

On Monday N-gage converts will be able to choose between six games. In total 30, have been announced. Nokia also has nine game studios on board, including Electronic Arts and Vivendi Games.

Users can now try and buy games like Fifa 08, World Series of Poker Pro Challenge and car game Asphalt 3: Street Rules.

"We will launch about two, thee games every week. Most of the announced games will be launched during Q2," said Joyau.

Numbers alone aren't everything, though, Antonius warned.

"30 games is a lot, if you compare to the launch of a new console. But the question how many of those games are actually any good," he said.

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