N-Gage 2.0: How Nokia Could Get it Right
The original N-Gage deserved its fate, but Nokia is trying to set things right this time around. Robert Falcon has prepared some advice for the Finnish phone company...
Sometimes it takes a colossal failure to wake up a manufacturer, to the point that they make a game system better. Take Sega, for example. The company learned a hard lesson with their Sega Saturn game machine, eventually releasing the Sega Dreamcast and receiving a high number of sales within its first 24 hours of release. Now Nokia faces a similar situation. The company suffered a horrifying failure with their N-Gage handheld game system, plagued by lackluster games, a poor control interface, and high prices. Now the company has sworn that they're on the right trail this time around, as the N-Gage V2 will be hitting shelves this September. The company will officially unveil the new handheld at the Game Developers Conference next month.
But what's to stop Nokia from repeating history and suffering another loss with this latest handheld? Has the company really learned their lesson or are they doomed to step back into the annuls of failure? Fortunately, Modojo is here to provide a handy little guide as to what the company can do to assure success of their handheld this time around. Let's take a look at what tips we can offer to the company...
Study the competition- This is serious stuff that Nokia is dealing with, going up against Nintendo's massively successful Nintendo DS Lite and Sony's high-tech PlayStation Portable system. They'll need to plan things just right in order to stay ahead of the competition. Timing between crucial game releases has to be on the money. For instance, releasing a game from Sega for the N-Gage V2 will mean nothing if it's coming out on the same day as, oh, say, New Super Mario Bros. 2 or The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass. The system launch also has to be timely and loaded with just the right amount of games to get positive attention. Rushing a launch is a no-no -- just look at the original N-Gage, or even the PS3.
Get games that matter, and play well- Part of the N-Gage's problem lied within its game selection. Only a couple of the games ended up being any good at all, with others showing clear signs that they were rushed and carried no play value whatsoever. The developers need to get their hands on development kits ASAP, without hesitation. Nokia needs to provide these kits so the likes of Sega and EA Mobile can make more killer games, and less crap like Sonic N and countless FIFA Soccer games. Nokia should also make a practice to show these development kits and what they can do right off the bat -- this way, no "hidden tricks" need to be discovered somewhere down the line. Developers will know exactly what they're dealing with.
Format the phones to play well- The other big problem with the original N-Gage design was how uncomfortable it was. Players trying to adjust to different gameplay styles with the N-Gage's lame button layout ran into hurdle after hurdle, with little reward for their efforts. Even games that were supposed to be simple in nature, like Tony Hawk's Pro Skater, played like crap on the old system. The N-Gage QD improved on the format, but not nearly enough to make gamers feel more comfortable. The N-Gage V2 needs to have a format that's both helpful and intuitive, without being overly complicated. Yes, it can be done. Just look at the DS Lite.
Emphasize online play- Online play may not seem like an important feature at first to Nokia, but Bluetooth was one of the biggest features for the N-Gage service, fueling the N-Gage Arena very nicely. Nintendo and Sony have many games with online play to their credit, so Nokia needs to keep on the up-and-up with many online games of their own, especially sports games and whatever first-person shooters they produce. The system can be a phone, that's fine, and Internet use (especially for free) is always smiled upon. But online gaming will be the big ticket here, and Nokia shouldn't give up on the one really good thing the system could do.
Grab the big franchises- It's cool that the original N-Gage got some big names to star in games, including the WWE, Tony Hawk, Tomb Raider, and some others. But the new system needs even bigger names in order to assure survival on the market. We're talking huge franchises, such as Unreal Tournament, Virtua Fighter, Sonic (in a better game this time), and many more. Getting big franchises brings more recognizance to a gaming platform. Why else would Tiger's Game.com have gotten so much attention otherwise? A black and white dot matrix screen? Whatever.
Finally, the price- Last but not least, Nokia needs to release this technology at somewhat fair prices. The phones should sit around $125-$150 at best, with games going for around $10-$30 apiece. Downloadable content should be available for fairly cheap, and online gaming fees should remain minimal. A pipe dream? Perhaps. But part of staying alive in the portable gaming scene relies on a good pricing system. If the prices are too jacked up, the units will sit there, unsold and still high in quantity. The original N-Gage suffered too much from this, and the second version should do no such thing.
Hopefully, Nokia's given a listen to these tips. If you have your own advice to give, feel free to leave your tips in the comments section.