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Monday, March 01, 2004

Comments

Cindy Wong

The way I see it, there are three big slices of the big "portable computing" pie: cell phone, (serious) portable gaming, and PDA. So far, any convergence of two or more such functions are failing miserably. Yes, you get those cheesy mini-games and a day planner on many cell phones, but they are thrown in for garnish.

The ultimate reason why I think cell phone + PDA combo has not worked so far is user interface. So far, no device can do both very nicely. Well, without you looking like a dork trying to use it anyway. But the SmartPhone based cell phones with touch-screen has a good chance, if Microsoft can shred the image of its OS being flaky. The phone aspect (most importantly, the familiar 12-key number pad) must be emphasized. You don't realize how much you've grown accustom to a real phone keypad until you've tried using a digitized one, even if it's touch-screen.

Likewise, the combination of cell phone + portable gaming must focus on the cell phone aspect. If a device is a cell phone and happens to be able to play GBA? I'd probably buy it in a heartbeat. But an add-on which allows you to use your GBA as a cell phone? Well, does anyone remember the sticker picture printer for GameBoy? How many people actually bought one?

In short, any device with cell phone capabilities should make it the first priority. Period.

I think PDA + serious gaming never mixed is identity crisis. There are many games available for Palm and PocketPC, and the new generation of 400MHz ARM-powered PDA are powerful enough for serious games. But the image of PDA being a productive tool and a GBA being the exact opposite are all but engraved in our minds. Anything marketing trying to weave productivity and fun together won't work.

If Microsoft decide to jump into the portable gaming foray (a possibility, especially if PSP well-received), in all likelihoods their portable gaming device will be based on PocketPC, and their marketing team can say, "Hey, look! We've got a new portable X-Box and a great lineup for it!" The fact it has day planner and address book built-in, if it does, will be swapped aside, much like the DVD player function in X-Box.

BTW, my snow tires are made by Nokia. ;)

I AM JOBE

"NO ONE cares that this device doubles as a phone."

Everyone I know who owns an N-Gage has one because it is a phone... and that's the reason why I own one and not a GBA... I kind of needed a new phone and with 3-D gaming thrown in it sounded like a great idea, and I haven't regretted buying it! N-Gage doesn't appeal to hardcore gamers, sadly this is how it has been advetised, it appeals to people who like games, phones and PDAs, but not enough to spend a few hundred pounds on just one.

"N-Gage is a tricked up brand name."

I disagree... Though being easy to mispell with that hyphen, engage is an easy to say, relevant and memorable word.. so maybe naming it nGage would have been a better move. Personally, I think XBox is an awful name for a system, but I still like it as a system and definitely prefer it to PlayStation or GameCube.

N-Gage still has a lot going for it - Online play with live online play coming very soon, taking advantage of it's phone abilities. Some exclusive titles which look and sound great. It has a small but sturdy fan-base on which to build, and from where I come from Nokia is a much cooler brand than Sony or Nintendo.

If it was just another GameBoy (Another terrible name, but we've come to not notice), without it's phone/PDA abilities, there would absolutely be no point in getting it and it would have no unique advantages that you couldn't expect in a PSP or the next Game Boy.

Dave

I heard that Ngage 2 is coming from http://www.ngagegaming.com also

David, I agree with almost everything you're saying. I think there is WAY too much theory conjecture involved here. The N-Gage failed because it is a bad gaming device, and if possible, an even worse cell phone. That has to be the clunkiest garbage to fit in your pocket and hold up to your ear.

Branding had nothing to do with anything. You can say N-Gage and XBox, or Nokia N-Gage and Microsoft XBox. It just depends how much like a commercial you like to sound. Sure Nokia making a game device caused some murmurs. So did Sony making a console. A lot of people thought Sony would never be successful.

"When a North American thinks of a wireless handset .... In Europe, you buy a wireless handset and you expect it to have good SMS capabilities in addition to the standard voice capabilities along with a few technical perks such as a speakerphone. The ability to switch carriers along with calling plans whenever you want is assumed as is keeping your phone number. A European consumer also wouldn't find it strange to toss that same handset out in 8 months to buy another better one."
Surely a couple years ago Americans weren't looking for this stuff, but today the average phone in America supports all this stuff. Well, 12 month contracts tend to discourage getting a new phone within a year, but that's it. All the perks you go on to list for Asian market phones are pretty standard in above-average American phones too. My Motorola cost me $100 and has every feature you listed. Maybe the US still keeps a lot of lower end phones around for budget consumers compared to other countries?

Anyway, Scott, cell phones are not the future. They're the present. In the future we'll all have portable devices that act as phones, PDAs, GPS, connected gaming, hard disk storage, even interface devices (think coke machines but on a grander scale) all wrapped up in one. That's what 'mobile communications' is really about. And any cell phone company would be foolish to not be forward-thinking and just focus on phones with perks. Sure, it will take people time to adjust to the attitude that Nokia isn't just a cell phone company, but you can't fault them for trying to change consumers' perceptions.

Brant Bassart

uh... Word.

Martin M

Hey, unnamed, you are quoting a number of features which you think are part of the future, but they sound like old history

>>In the future we'll all have portable devices that act as phones<<

So why not call it phones then? Smartphones, handphones..etc.

>>PDAs<<

The PDA is a thing of the past.

>>GPS<<

Already in some phones and PDAs, hence *present*.

>>connected gaming<<

Like Ngage II or Ngage III ?

>>hard disk storage<<

You must be joking! Hard disc? With all these CF, MMC, SD cards, hard discs are completely stoneage.

>>all wrapped up in one.<<

This is present time. Check out Nokia 9500 and Nokia 7700 and Sony Ericson P900.

>>That's what 'mobile communications' is really about.<<

No I think it is much more than that. The Nokia 7700 is already eclipsing what you are saying because of all its media features.

cheers
Martin

Anon

Scott,

Your bombastic tone does not match your analytical skills.

You wholly, and naively, miss the point.

The N-Gage is a DEFENSIVE product, NOT an OFFENSIVE product.

The N-Gage is there to stop offensive attacks from competitors such as Nintendo, Sony Ericsson, Microsoft etc.

The N-Gage is designed to plug a hole in the Nokia portfolio and to stop competitive attacks.

The number of devices sold is irrelevant.

The N-Gage exists to drive Nokia further up the experience curve.

The N-Gage has plugged a strategic gap.

As any High-School economics student will tell you, every product launch has objectives.

The objectives of the N-Gage are to stop, or diminish the threat of, competitive attacks in the emerging mobile-gaming-plus-phone segment.

The N-Gage has fulfilled, nay, exceeded, those expectations.

Job done.

Finally, I would add that the N-Gage accounts for about 1% of Nokia's total global sales.

So, not only are you strategically mistaken about the N-Gage, you are numerically mistaken, too.

Please don't let hotheaded-gamer emotion get in the way of cool-headed intelligence.

Regards,


Anon.

Brant Bassart

Martin, that last unnamed post was mine, hence the followup post.

All those technologies surely exist in some form or another today. I'm not claiming to be inventing these things. I'm just saying that in the future almost everybody will have all-purpose mobile devices that can handle any number of useful, everyday tasks. These handhelds will be much more than 'cell phones with perks', and that is why Nokia's emphasis isn't on phones, but communications.

Victor Vedit

I think it's hillarious that people hate the N-Gage so much they seem compelled to spend hours discussing it in detail. I have no such hang-up,
my N-Gage keeps me entertained through many boring situations with videos,mp3s,internet,radio and oh yeah the games, online and otherwise. I guess some just don't get it. What else is a grown man going to carry with him everywhere he goes but a cellphone? I can't see myself taking a gameboy to work.

Collo

I do..

Jon

The n-gage is the best cell phone/game/a lot of other things Ive ever owned anyone who says its bad doesnt know how to use it!

Nathan Peterson

Victor, not to be a downer or anything, if you like your N-Gage then thats perfect, and its money well spent.

But I cant honestly see myself talking on an uncomfortable taco, that looks like a very gimmicked teenagers toy.

I also can see myself bringing a Gameboy SP to any job, its low profile, and compact. and most people who know what it is, own one as well, heck you might even find someone to link and play mario kart with.

just my thoughts.

-n

Chris

I think the genuine problem here (highlighted by most comments above) is that the N-Gage has simply been spectacularly mis-marketed. I've no idea how good my N-Gage really is as a games console because I don't use it as one (occassional Tetris playing notably excepted ;) and haven't used competitors such as the GBA.

What the N-Gage is, is a terrific smartphone/entertainment centre: With a 128MB MMC card it makes a good replacement for carrying a music player (you also have the radio), it wirelessly and quickly synchronizes my diary and contacts with Outlook (letting you edit these on the move), has a built-in IMAP e-mail client and a web browser. In short, it very capably replaces 3 devices I would otherwise want to carry around (phone, PDA, music player), plus giving me a few extras, in one pocketable package - exactly what a convergence device *should* do.

Whilst it is true that the device has faults (128MB MMC card limit, 'sidetalking') I simply couldn't find another device that did what I wanted so well. Incidentally, if you always carry the music headphones with the unit, 'sidetalking' ceases to be an issue since these double as a phone headset (a bluetooth headset and the unit's speakerphone capability complete the picture).

Scott Miller

-- "N-Gage has simply been spectacularly mis-marketed."

And this is merely a symptom of the fact that Nokia has stepped outside its area of expertise.

This might be okay for a company that's well behind the leader in its market, and needs to try to lead in a new category. But for Nokia, they'd be much smarter to stay focused on the category they currently lead in. It's very rare for any company to be a category leader, and when you're in that fortunate position, time, money and effort are better spent on maintaining that leadership position. The reason is simple: Being a category leader is THE MOST POWERFUL REASON people buy your product.

For example, people do not buy Coke because it tastes better -- it's been proven in numerous blind taste tests to be less desired than Pepsi. Yet, in non-blind taste tests, Coke wins every time. People prefer leaders. It's that simple.

One of the latest Coke vs. Pepsi taste tests:
http://www.brandchannel.com/start1.asp?fa_id=201

Victor

Mr Peterson I am sorry you see the N-Gage as a toy. Are you aware of its features? It plays movies for gosh sake not to mention the mp3 player and all the third party software. With T-Mobiles unlimited internet (not wap) service and the netfront browser it's like taking a fully functional pc everywhere I go and memory is a snap with the new gigabyte mmc cards. I can check and send email, do anything on any site, even buy stuff online with as much security as at home (if not more). I just wish you would give the thing another chance. You don't have to hold it like a taco to talk it comes with a speakerphone and stereo headphones. And the bluetooth multiplayer games are a real kick too. Oh yeah with the new gameboy roms out I can even play your gameboy and advance games too what more could you possibly want in a Cell Phone.

Kevin

Yeah , I own the N-gage myself , I have to admit the name is pretty crappy , and most fo the games suck too

but the MP3 player and the movie viewer and all the other cool features are just fantastic

I pruchased the N-gage to play games - listen to music and to watch movies and im not dissapointed

Lyrix

You have some valid points about a company having split a personality, and that thus leads to failure. Therefore, I just want to let you know that Im a 17 year guy that enjoys video games. I got accepted into this college in Pittsburgh (The Art Institute) but I decided not to go because, in my major (game art and design) consists of alot of drawing. Im not one of those game nerds that just do nothing except play, and worship Sony. My respect level for games is through the roof, but I wanted to know if you knew how to get in the gaming world. You already know my weakness is drawing. However, I have unbelievable concepts and ideas for video games that would dazzle anybody. Yet, my problem is how do I bring my ideas to life? If you anything/anyone/ or can just give your honest advice I'd appreciate it. Thank You.

Gabby Dizon

Good luck with your journey Lyrix.

From what I've seen, people don't just go in and become "designers" in the industry (which if I read correctly is what you want). You cannot just come in with your ideas and have the whole team entrust its next project to it. Usually, people becoming the designers start in QA, or as a junior level designer (building the world) or scripting designer (creating events in the world, usually requires at least basic programming skills). I don't think all the good designers are good artists; a lot of them (especially the early ones) were programmers first.

That's about all I can tell you. Hope it helps.

Scott Miller

-- "Yet, my problem is how do I bring my ideas to life?"

Lyrix, this isn't just your problem, it's *everyone's* problem. Everyone has good ideas (or more specifically, everyone has good ideas on how to improve what's already out there), but it's the implementation that's the hard part. Implementation requires a team, a lot of money, and a solid leader. And it can require two or more years or dedicated effort.

It's a wide chasm between having a winning concept and bringing a finished product to market. Lots and lots of established teams, full of people with great ideas like yourself, are folding or being bought by publishers. It's tough on this side of the fence. It's about as tough getting a game made as it is getting a movie made nowadays, in terms of getting a concept approved and funded.

Not the answer I like to give out, and I'm sure not the one you wanted to hear. But as this industry has gelled, the reality is that the barrier to entry has grown like the Great Wall of China.

Gabby Dizon

"It's about as tough getting a game made as it is getting a movie made nowadays, in terms of getting a concept approved and funded."

So true. Especially for an indie developer like us who cannot make a AAA game with our own cash. We've heard so many times something like "You have a good concept, but we're not looking for new IP right now, we're looking for established brands or franchises."

It's gotten so bad that even investors have noticed it. Do you think that when investors are the ones complaining about sequelitis and too many WWII shooters, these publishers will sit down and listen? Or would we have to have a sales crisis (i.e. no one buying games anymore) before publishers change their tune?

Gabby Dizon

"It's gotten so bad that even investors have noticed it."

My bad, i meant analysts. Just woke up.

J.

It's a matter of free lunches. There aren't anymore left; they've already been eaten. Anyone who wants to succeed these days has to make their own.

Frankly, I regard this as a clear sign that the games industry is maturing. Like Scott just said, it's like getting a movie made. Movies can be made for all sorts of audiences, but you need millions of dollars to reach the big screens nationwide. Thankfully, there's an undercurrent of support for "independent" and even "art" filmmakers, provided they aren't interested in making much money.

Such things exist in the gaming world. With as many engines, toolsets and SDKs out there, if you want to make a game, go and make one -- just don't quit your day job.

But if you want to make games your day job -- and I've heard this repeated by more people than I can name offhand -- start bringing your ideas to life, right now. Hook up with a mod team. Make a map. Make a module. Do something, that proves you have the stones to make it in the real world. Opportunities do exist for those with the patience and desire to get it done.

Elizabeth Chrysostomou

Dear Sir or Madam,
I was wondering if you print games? If not can you guess any that does print games in China?

my email is lizzie_chrysos@hotmail.com
Thank you
lizzie

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