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Nokia Admits N-Gage Sales Below Expectations

simoniker posted more than 10 years ago | from the just-you-wait dept.

Portables (Games) 54

Thanks to the UK Financial Times for its article discussing Nokia's first public acknowledgment that the Nokia N-Gage 'mobile game deck' has not performed to expectations. According to the article: "'The sales are in the lower quartile of the bracket we had as our goal,' Jorma Ollila, the Finnish group's chairman and chief executive told the FT.", and it was further noted that "Nokia has set a target of selling 9m of the devices in the first two years, but the company has now corroborated early evidence from game stores that sales have been sluggish." Nokia had previously reported positive results in the short post-launch period, despite apparent evidence to the contrary, but the FT article ends with the Nokia chairman's comments that "the N-Gage had to be given until November 2005 before it could be judged a success or failure."

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November 2004? (2, Interesting)

happylight (600739) | more than 10 years ago | (#8360404)

Forget it. 'Cause it'll only get worse as people start to forget about the taco phone. So unless they start selling those at below $100 people won't buy them. And even then they'll only buy it for the phone, not the gaming.

Re:November 2004? (3, Interesting)

secolactico (519805) | more than 10 years ago | (#8360591)

And even then they'll only buy it for the phone, not the gaming.

Only if they are giving them away with cell phone plans. That thing is too bulky and cumbersome compared with phones of similar (minus gaming) features.

Re:November 2004? (5, Insightful)

Irish-DnB (161087) | more than 10 years ago | (#8360914)

I actually think it'll be the other way around. A friend of mine owns one and it is so awkward to use as a phone that it's only real use is as a console.

Give it (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8360424)

Give it a total redesign. Get rid of the taco shape, make the cartridges easier to swap in and out, drop the price to near free once you sign the phone contract and then maybe it might sell.

Re:Give it (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8360471)

Also don't forget to fix that ridiculous non-standard screen. What were they thinking [gamespy.com] ?

Re:Give it (4, Interesting)

gl4ss (559668) | more than 10 years ago | (#8360824)

if they 'fix' it(the non 'standard' screen), then it will become less desirable for people who do their homework(what is standard anyways? 320*240?)..

as now(the current n-gage) it's a pretty damn cheap series60 phone(with more ram than 3650/60 too).

why is it important? because of all the 3rd party software available for series60(irc, opera & etc) that seperates it from a plain gaming device.

they will redesign it of course(who thought they would sell the same design for 2 years??), maybe drop the mp3 chip too(though the mp3 chip is quite handy when you have 128mb+ free for mp3's when you have a 256mb mmc).

sonics 'problem' is that it was not designed for the screen in the first place(screen that's pretty good for shooters actually). the screen with the 'borders' is a screen that's scaled from the 'big' view(you can get unscaled screen on too, by press of a button). in fact most of the games so far have been just cheap ports, and I mean really cheap(the dev costs can't have been that high).

as to providing it for nearly no cost with plans, that's up to the telecoms(besides, such tying is illeagal here as it becomes impossible for the consumer to consider how much is he paying for the phone and how much for the connection, this law didn't hurt adaptation at all btw, if anything it helped it).

anyways.. some sort of gaming is going to be continued to be published for their more powerful phones so they might just as well try to get a bite of that. coding for them is relatively simple anyways.

About that MP3 capability. (1)

Inoshiro (71693) | more than 10 years ago | (#8361879)

The MMC cards that the N-Gage uses (non-SD kind) top out at 128mb. It makes it somewhat useless compared to my iPod for music playback.

The good thing about that much space is that it can hold a lot of Atari, Nintendo, Gameboy, and Neo Geo Pocket Color roms. Emulation is the killer app of the N-Gage, not MP3s :)

Re:About that MP3 capability. (1)

macrom (537566) | more than 9 years ago | (#8365490)

A co-worker of mine has a 256 MB MMC card in his N-Gage. You can order one [newegg.com] from Newegg for cheap.

Re:About that MP3 capability. (1)

gl4ss (559668) | more than 9 years ago | (#8365666)

funny that I have a 256mb mmc card in my ngage. .. ah well back to getting into the coding so I can get some emu ported..

Re:Give it (3, Interesting)

PainKilleR-CE (597083) | more than 10 years ago | (#8361887)

if they 'fix' it(the non 'standard' screen), then it will become less desirable for people who do their homework(what is standard anyways? 320*240?).

320*240 is more or less standard, but then cell phones follow different rules, and have different standard dimensions from gaming systems or PDAs. Still, to solve problems like homework you would use the same solution most PDAs use: allow display rotation, or set it up so that most applications run with more vertical space, while most games can run either way, according to the developer's needs. As long as it's comfortable to use as a gaming device in widescreen mode, it'll be fine for most ports. If it can be somehow comfortable to use for gaming in either direction, then it'll just be an added bonus for shooters and such (I find that an interesting note, too, since SquareEnix announced some time ago that they were going to start developing cell phone games, and the first game they announced was a shooter).

Re:Give it (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8360477)

Perhaps a promotional give away...

Maybe from Taco Bell?

Re:Give it (1)

meta-monkey (321000) | more than 10 years ago | (#8362029)

They need to do one other thing. Stop talking to the press about how poorly it's selling! Their marketing department's probably in a fit over that. Even if it's tanking, they should either say nothing, or go on about how the N-Gage is flying off the shelves and people love it and we're gonna support it forever. Instead, potential buyers hear the N-Gage had to be given until November 2005 before it could be judged a success or failure. and think "Ummm...maybe I'll just hold off on that N-Gage purchase. I don't want to buy a console that may be dying or dead right after launch..."

Re:Give it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8362172)

I don't want to buy a console that may be dying or dead right after launch

Cue the *Gage trolls:

It is official; Netcraft confirms: *Gage is dying

One more crippling bombshell hit the beleaguered...

Re:Give it (1)

KBV (732207) | more than 10 years ago | (#8379403)

So basically make it into a Game Boy Advance? ;)

Well.... (5, Funny)

Grahhh (614405) | more than 10 years ago | (#8360431)

If it makes them feel any better, it sold considerably better than my expected 0 units.

November 2005, eh? (5, Funny)

thelenm (213782) | more than 10 years ago | (#8360445)

"Well, we sorta kinda sold less than 25% of what we thought we would, but as far as it being a success or failure... just give us another um, 21 months. Then we'll be able to judge."

Re:November 2005, eh? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8360721)

They have to get rid of their stock of them somehow... at thir current rate of sale, that's how long it'll take to sell them... or maybe most at least.

Is this correct? (5, Interesting)

woohoodonuts (734070) | more than 10 years ago | (#8360450)

How can they expect mass appeal whenever they're offering these things for $380? I can go buy a freakin gamecube and a PS2 for less than that, then go sign up for a phone plan and get a phone for free.

The pricing point in this article can't be correct. I just can't possibly fathom how they would expect people to run screaming into the stores for these things when they're charging this much.

Specs... (5, Informative)

woohoodonuts (734070) | more than 10 years ago | (#8360491)

For those unknowing (the websites don't really cover this.)
There is a nice FAQ about the NGage here [ign.com]

N-Gage Specifications

CPU: 104Mhz ARM processor 12-bit CPU
Maximum Simultaneous Colors: 4096
Resolution: 176 x 208 pixels
Size: 133.7 x 69.7 x 20.2 mm
Weight: 137 g
Operating System: Symbian OS with Java 2 Micro Edition support
Memory: 4MB internal


N-Gage Features

High performance mobile 3D gaming
Gaming-optimized design and functionality
Bluetooth
Digital music player and recorder
Stereo FM radio
Nokia Audio Manager PC software
New design concept, new UI experience
Multimedia messaging
Full email support (IMAP4, POP3, SMTP, MIME2)
Content with XHTML browser
Tri-band EGSM 900/GSM1800/GSM 1900
Series 60 UI enabling application multitasking
Slave USB 1.1. for digital music download from PC
MP3, AAC, Midi, WAV ringing tones
WAP over GPRS

The author of this was: Scott Tsukamoto

Re:Specs... (1)

M3wThr33 (310489) | more than 10 years ago | (#8360725)

And for $299 you can get a Zodiac1 with a 200Mhz CPU, 16MB internal RAM, 8MB graphics chip, 480x320x16 resolution, bluetooth, and everything above and beyond it.
Of course, if you want a really bad phoen, be my guest

Re:Specs... (4, Insightful)

polyp2000 (444682) | more than 10 years ago | (#8361185)

A few days ago I dropped my old 7650 which consequently bust it. I upgraded to a 6600. From what I can see the internal architecture and memory capacity is pretty much the same. Hence my joy of joys when I swapped memory cards with an N-Gage owner down the pub last night. Using the Blizzard Install application was able to play Tony Hawks and Sonic on my phone that doesnt look like a taco! I havent tried any of the others yet but suspect favorable results.

nick ...

The only problem there. (2, Interesting)

Inoshiro (71693) | more than 10 years ago | (#8361860)

Is that most phones aren't designed to support having multiple keys pressed (and understood) at the same time. This will make games like Tony Hawk a lot trickier, since you won't be easily able to do tricks.

Still, I'd be happier if Nokia had actually put some sort of video processor in the N-Gage which wasn't standard on all other S60 phones.

Nokia hire me (4, Funny)

heldlikesound (132717) | more than 10 years ago | (#8360452)

"the N-Gage had to be given until November 2005 before it could be judged a success or failure."

for $100k , I'd tell them a year and nine months in advance that it was a complete failure.

Final Comment (2, Insightful)

Landaras (159892) | more than 10 years ago | (#8360453)

Did anyone else who RTFA (don't worry, it's short) notice this gem at the end (emphasis mine)...

Commenting on Nokia's recent decision to lift its stake in Symbian, the leading smartphone operating system, to 63.3 per cent after moving to buy a 31.1 per cent stake from Psion, Mr Ollila stressed that Symbian would continue to be run as an independent company.

As in, yes we promise that we won't screw Symbian up as badly as we screwed up this whole N-Gage thing...

- Neil Wehneman

Re:Final Comment (3, Interesting)

Mr_Silver (213637) | more than 10 years ago | (#8361315)

As in, yes we promise that we won't screw Symbian up as badly as we screwed up this whole N-Gage thing...

They won't. Mainly because they can't afford to.

Nokia are shit scared (like every other manufacturer - bar Motorola) that Microsoft are going to muscle into the mobile phone industry and take it over. If that happened, all mobile phone manufacturers would be relegated to producing hardware on flimsy margins and licencing the OS from Microsoft (a la the current PC situation).

The biggest thing that Symbian has in its favour is that the Microsoft Phone OS is truely truely aweful. However it won't be like that forever.

What went wrong (3, Insightful)

Kris_J (10111) | more than 10 years ago | (#8360520)

I'm sure that most people's lists of what Nokia did wrong with the N-Gage is as long as my arm, but there were only two basic mistakes.
  • Focussing on gamers while producing patronising advertising for that very group.
  • DRM -- specifically, rigging games to only play on the N-Gage, from an MMC card with no way to install them on a bug MMC flash card or play them on other perfectly capable phones in the same family
The N-Gage's layout is perfect for games, while its Symbian Series 60 OS is a really nice smartphone OS. For some, it's the best S60 option because you can buy it off-plan and unlocked. For others it's the best S60 because it's the cheapest.

If Nokia had just released it quietly as a gaming-oriented S60 phone and the games had been available on CD and MMC, then it would probably have exceeded all expectations and been the homebrew (game) programmer's phone of choice.

Re:What went wrong (3, Insightful)

Frac (27516) | more than 10 years ago | (#8360758)

No, the two basic mistakes were:

1) You have to turn off the N-Gage, and take out the cover and battery in order to CHANGE GAMES. Not to mention the fragile games were the size of a triscuit.

2) Anyone using an N-Gage as a phone will look like an idiot holding a taco sideways [sidetalkin.com] .

Re:What went wrong (2, Interesting)

iainl (136759) | more than 10 years ago | (#8360822)

"You have to turn off the N-Gage, and take out the cover and battery in order to CHANGE GAMES."

Actually, the grandparent poster was on a relevant line to this talking about the DRM on the games. They are actually just plain ol' Symbian games that (as unscrupulous crackers have done) can be played on any Symbian phone once you've got them in an unencrypted format.

If that were the case as standard, then you could easily fit several games on one large MMC card and choose between them without even a reset. The fragility of the games is because they have to come on the standard MMC cards, and they just happen to be horribly fragile as a medium.

So its really a fault of whoever designed MMC, and let it become the standard for Symbian generally (which would still be partly Nokia, then, come to think of it).

Re:What went wrong (2, Insightful)

ooby (729259) | more than 9 years ago | (#8363756)

DRM is nothing new to consoles. Try putting your NES carts in your X-BOX, or your Dreamcast CDs in your Game Cube.

Re:What went wrong (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#8364186)

Quit making sense damn it. It's ruining these guys' arguments.

Re:What went wrong (1)

iainl (136759) | more than 10 years ago | (#8371620)

Err, thats got nothing to do with DRM, and everything to do with them being completely different machines. Admittedly there are copy protection schemes on pretty much all consoles, but I think the first stage would be finding a hole to even put a NES cart in, or cutting the edge off the disc to get a CD in a Gamecube.

The NGage games could come on standard MMC cards just fine, as the machine can read these. Its only because they don't want you storing multiple games on one big card that stops you from doing so.

And by the way - my NES games play just fine on my Dreamcast, thanks. Emulators are great.

That, and the screen. (1)

raygundan (16760) | more than 9 years ago | (#8363990)

Hell, I'd put up with the taco part if they fixed the game swap and got a better screen. The vertical orientation is great for space invaders and tetris, but not so much for side-scrollers or 3D games. Switch to a gameboy orientation.

If they threw in a split thumboard (half on each side) so I could IM, i'd ditch my t600 in a heartbeat for it. Unfortunately, it's just not a replacement.

N-Gage a failure? Nooooo... (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8360552)

N-Gage couldn't possibly be a failure, it's the biggest thing since the virtual boy.



I was so shocked to read this.

Taco Phones (4, Insightful)

BrookHarty (9119) | more than 10 years ago | (#8360556)

I really thought the phone was cool, untill you I saw someone use one, they hold it like a taco. WTF was Nokia thinking!? Same with the Nokia 3300, nice display and full keypad, but its a Taco phone.

Really, great features, but you fell like a dork using one. I think the best phone from Nokia right now is the 3620, normal dialpad, cameraphone, and tons of features.

Myself, I want a sony P900, no thumb board (for ssh). :(

Re:Taco Phones (3, Funny)

smcn (87571) | more than 10 years ago | (#8360699)

What are you talking about? These people [sidetalkin.com] don't look like dorks at all!

Re:Taco Phones (1)

gl4ss (559668) | more than 10 years ago | (#8360899)

maybe they thought that people wouldn't like a picture of their ear on the screen?

besides the audio quality on them is excellent, and if it really matters that much pump up the volume and hold it like a normal one.

3300 is like the dumbest choice ever to buy. s40 for more money than similar looking s60 phone..

36** would be fine otherwise but they(at least 3650) have less memory for programs to run in than n-gage(this is rarely said anywehere, but it matters because it makes using opera while other programs are on feasible).

Re:Taco Phones (1)

Kris_J (10111) | more than 10 years ago | (#8360947)

The best phone from Nokia at the moment is the 6600. It's basically an N-Gage with a camera in a more "normal" phone-style layout. Comes with a free copy of Opera.

Re:Taco Phones (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8361000)

Pah. The best Nokia phone is the 8910i - and I'm not just saying that because I own one. You can keep your plastic lump, titanium is the only way to go.

In other news... (2, Funny)

PatrickThomson (712694) | more than 10 years ago | (#8360646)

Pope is catholic!

Re:In other news... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8368936)

Oh, scuse me, how is this flamebait? If it said "Pope fucks children" maybe.

Give them for free (1)

Jacek Poplawski (223457) | more than 10 years ago | (#8360979)

Console makers should give them (without any cost) for developers, this way console will be popular. And there aren't so many developers to make it expensive for company.

Re:Give them for free (1)

gl4ss (559668) | more than 10 years ago | (#8361102)

as the required devkits to start developing are 'free'(at least as in beer, as in Freedom partly as well) now as opposed to paying thousands for starting gameboy coding 'officially'(yes i know of the unofficial kits).. the biggest hurdle and expense is getting the basic knoweledge of the symbian platform(possible for free without paying for literature, but not as easy as getting into j2me for example).

And I'd imagine them having given them away for 'free' to certain developers as well(they do that with other phones.. generate hype&etc..).

It deserved to sell badly. (3, Interesting)

pommaq (527441) | more than 10 years ago | (#8360995)

But I'm not going to declare it DOA just yet. Yeah, the N-Gage had so many design flaws and stupid decisions I can't even begin to count them (and I gotta wonder what those finnish engineers were smoking), but the idea is still sound. I played Pandemonium on one of these monsters a few days ago, and... it's not too shabby. The N-Gage sucks - I agree - but you have to keep in mind that phone companies roll out new models OFTEN. I think the people at Nokia have learned a few lessons and unless they get cold feet from this debacle and terminate the N-Gage, version 2.0 will probably be quite nice. As long as they stick to their standards (as in 100% backwards compatibility) and keep improving the model, it could really turn into something nice. Integrating phone/pda/handheld gaming isn't such a bad idea, really, but the devil is in the details and Nokia screwed up. If they can listen to consumer feedback and improve the phone, they might end up with a winner.

Re:It deserved to sell badly. (5, Insightful)

fwitness (195565) | more than 10 years ago | (#8361151)

"...the N-Gage had so many design flaws and stupid decisions I can't even begin to count them..."

My problem is with the poor design decisions, not with the design flaws. The N-Gage doesn't seem to have any real flaws, just conscious improper choices. The original PS2 had design flaws, i.e. with not playing DVDs, lasers going bad etc. However, having to disassemble the phone to change games is something they actually discussed and felt comfortable with.

That's what I can't stand. It's one thing to hear someone say something stupid. They may not know better, but when a group of people choose to be ridiculous, well, my sympathy goes way down.

Re:It deserved to sell badly. (3, Funny)

acxr is wasted (653126) | more than 10 years ago | (#8361278)

That's what I can't stand. It's one thing to hear someone say something stupid. They may not know better, but when a group of people choose to be ridiculous, well, my sympathy goes way down.

Reminds me a lot of these guys [slashdot.org] .

Re:It deserved to sell badly. (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#8367430)

It's one thing to hear someone say something stupid. They may not know better, but when a group of people choose to be ridiculous, well, my sympathy goes way down.

Ever hear of the Abilene Paradox? A group of people can unanimously agree to something that each individual member opposes. It's much easier for a group of people to do something incredibly stupid than it is for one person.

Re:It deserved to sell badly. (1)

hambonewilkins (739531) | more than 10 years ago | (#8388985)

So that's what happens when my friends and I go to the video store and end up with Blade 2.

Makes sense now.

Wha? (1)

Solikawa (604301) | more than 10 years ago | (#8361685)

Whoa! Who saw this coming?! ;)

In other news... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#8362616)

...the sky is blue, water is wet.

Woah (1)

Hassman (320786) | more than 9 years ago | (#8362644)

Woah...they actually expected to sell these things?

Re:Woah (1)

bandicot (532886) | more than 9 years ago | (#8364583)

Last I heard, T-Mobile was selling N-Gage only with prepaid service (no monthly billing), which targets teens and the credit-impaired. While there may be a subset of the credit-impaired who are interested in the gaming phone, I'd be surprised if there are many parents interested in getting prepaid devices for their kids when there are so many family plans that include low-cost handsets for the childrens.

What would really make a cellphone useful (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#8365325)

Would be an integrated pocket knife and screwdriver. [janetsboobie.com]

Hello (1)

blueZhift (652272) | more than 10 years ago | (#8369776)

Pot: Hello Kettle.

Kettle: Wzup!

Pot: You're black!

Kettle: [dial tone]

Sorry, had to do that! Seriously, if Nokia is serious and has some guts, they should be able to have a redesigned N-Gage out in time to compete with the Sony PSP. That's when the real fun begins.

They really only need to

1) Get better games.

2) Design a sane way to install and remove game cartridges. Just copy from Nintendo and everyone else who ever manufactured a portable gaming system...duh!

3) Design and pack in a cool headset that can be used for both playing games and making phone calls without looking like an idiot. Maybe the ear buds or the cord could have pressure sensitive control buds on them along with voice control of course.

To paraphrase their ads (1)

Psykechan (255694) | more than 10 years ago | (#8370039)

This is where I took a bath on Nokia stock.
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