N-Gage (service)

N-Gage (service)
The new N-Gage logo.
The application running on a Nokia N81.

The N-Gage service was Nokia's mobile gaming platform that is available for several Nokia S60 smartphones. It is a follow-up to the N-Gage handheld game console. N-Gage is a part of Nokia's Ovi initiative.

On October 30, 2009, Nokia announced that no new N-Gage games will be produced, and the N-Gage service had ceased at the end of 2010.[1] Nokia will continue its gaming efforts on Ovi, where Nokia users can access the Ovi Store to download games and other content.

Contents

Overview

The new N-Gage, also referred to as N-Gage Next Generation, N-Gage 2.0 or the N-Gage platform/application, saw a change in concept as Nokia explained to the world during E3 2005 that they were planning on putting N-Gage inside several of their smartphone devices - rather than releasing a specific device (although their N81 model with its two dedicated gaming-buttons next to the screen is being marketed as a phone built for gaming). Working behind closed doors, it took a little more than a year before Nokia actually started showing off next-gen titles such as System Rush: Evolution and Hooked On: Creatures of the Deep, with the fighting game ONE perhaps being the most visually impressive - even making use of motion capture.

A public beta test of the N-Gage application took place from February 4, 2008 to March 27, 2008[2] and the client was then released on April 3 the same year for the Nokia N81, N81 8GB, N82, N95 and N95 8GB.

Compatibility

Because N-Gage is a software based solution, the first generation MMC games are not compatible with the new platform,[3] though some games are making a comeback in form of a sequel (e.g. System Rush: Evolution) or a remake/port (e.g. Mile High Pinball). Similarly, games developed for this next-gen N-Gage platform do not work on the original N-Gage nor N-Gage QD, adding to the fact that newer S60 software, including the N-Gage client and games[citation needed], aren't binary-compatible with older S60 devices and vice-versa.

Devices

So far, the N-Gage website lists the following devices as compatible with the new N-Gage platform: Nokia N78, N79,[4] N81, N81 8GB, N82-1, N85,[4] N86 8MP, N95-1, N95-2 8GB, N96, Nokia 6210 Navigator,[5] 6710 Navigator,[6] 6720 Classic, E52,[7] E55, E75,[8] N86,[9] N97,[10] Nokia 5320 XpressMusic,[11] Nokia 5630 XpressMusic [12] and Nokia 5730 XpressMusic [13]

Due to memory issues, hinted in an interview in February 2008,[14] support for the Nokia N73, N93 and N93i was cancelled.[15]

First access

On February 4, 2008, after several delays ever since the beginning of 2007, the new N-Gage platform was released to the public - though limited only to users of Nokia’s N81 device. This period of time was referred to as "First Access" and only a public test of the client which could be downloaded for free from the N-Gage website. While not the final version, the user had access to most of the features that the new application had to offer along with three games to try out: Hooked On: Creatures of the Deep, System Rush: Evolution and Space Impact Kappa Base. Eventually, Nokia also released Tetris, Block Breaker Deluxe and World Series of Poker: Pro Challenge for the users to try out. None of the games are entirely free but all offers a limited trial for testing purposes. In order to experience the full game - it has to be either purchased or rented.

Shortly after being released to the public, the N-Gage installation file was unpacked into components, which can be then installed separately, thus removing N81-only limitation. N-Gage has since been reported working on other Nokia N-series devices , such as N73 and N95. In response, Nokia released an advisory asking users not to install this unsupported version as it could cause errors or other issues.

On March 20, the N-Gage blog reported that First Access would come to an end on March 27, though all downloaded games at that time would still be playable through the application until the updated version was released - which occurred on April 3.

Reception

There have been a lot of hands-on articles with the First Access client and they all generally reflect both the positive and negative feedback of the official First Access forum, where N81 users shared their thoughts on what was good and what could've been made better - regarding both the launcher itself and the games currently available. The biggest issues at that point was that of players not being able to "activate" a purchased game but still having only the trial version to play. A lot of players have also been reporting connection issues.

Head of New Experience, Nokia Play, Jaakko Kaidesoja had this to say to Pocket Gamer in an interview on February 21, 2008 when asked about what early feedback they had received[16]:

"The feedback has been positive and well received within the company and some critical comments were well received as well. We know it's not perfect yet and there are some features people want more of. Those are the things we want to check and get on the roadmap."

Game reviews

The games themselves have received an overall good reception all over the Internet ever since the First Access beta, with Hooked On: Creatures of the Deep standing out as the most successful title.

Asphalt 3: Street Rules

  • Pocket Gamer - 8/10
  • All About N-Gage - 80/100

Block Breaker Deluxe

  • Pocket Gamer - 7/10
  • All About N-Gage - 78/100

Hooked On: Creatures of the Deep

  • Pocket Gamer - 9/10
  • All About N-Gage - 86/100
  • Mobile Game FAQs - 92/100

Space Impact Kappa Base

  • Pocket Gamer - 8/10

System Rush: Evolution

  • Pocket Gamer - 8/10
  • All About N-Gage - 85/100

Tetris

  • Pocket Gamer - 8/10

World Series of Poker: Pro Challenge

  • Pocket Gamer - 5/10

Launch

After numerous delays and many vague release dates, the N-Gage platform was finally (and also quite suddenly) released to the public on April 3, 2008 through the N-Gage official website, though only five phone models are compatible to begin with. This probably has to do with the older models being less powerful as was pointed out in an interview earlier the same year whereas an N-Gage representative mentioned some memory issues with the N73.[14] The launch titles also changed from six to only five: Asphalt 3: Street Rules, Brain Challenge, Hooked On: Creatures of the Deep System Rush: Evolution, and World Series of Poker: Pro Challenge. The first two weren't even on the original list but Block Breaker Deluxe and Tetris instead. The sixth game that was postponed was Space Impact Kappa Base. Some hours after the launch, Ikona (the man behind the official N-Gage blog) had this to say about the delay:

"We are currently ensuring Block Breaker Deluxe, Space Impact Kappa Base, and Tetris are running smoothly with our new application. These should be available in the showroom next week or two."

Four days later, on April 7 - Nokia posted their official press release[17] commenting on the release of their new mobile service, and at which point FIFA 08 also became available for purchase.

With this release, the website also saw a small change in appearance with price tags added to all games available for download, an event calendar, a tab for support on both the application itself and N-Gage compatible devices and much more. Players logged onto the website could now also see their Reputation level, N-Gage level, and gathered N-Gage points.

There was also a release party held at the N-Gage chat room shortly after the release, with several members from the N-Gage team attending to answer any questions asked. A few t-shirts were randomly handed out during the three hour long event and everyone was also promised a few N-Gage points for coming to the "party".

As expected, the launch was not problem-free but numerous people reported having trouble downloading, purchasing and activating games, installing the application and logging on to the N-Gage Arena.

The N-Gage application

With a user interface that resembles Microsoft’s Xbox Live service, at the top of the N-Gage launcher there are five icons that can be navigated through by simply pressing left and right on the phone’s thumb pad. These represent your games library, profile, friends list, and the showroom - all as explained thoroughly below.

Home

The launcher welcomes the user with a Home screen where the last game played is shown along with some quick links to your friends, progress (score table), the Featured Game that Nokia wants to "highlight" for this week, and your Inbox for messaging within the launcher.

My Games

This screen shows all the games that are currently installed on the phone - be it a Trial version or the full game (purchased or rented). The ones that are trial versions have a pink stripe that says "TRIAL" to the far right of the game icon, overlapping what looks somewhat like a battery meter that, once you pay for the game, illustrates your progress with that game. At the bottom of the list of installed games is a quick link (Get More Games) that takes you to the showroom.

Games that are not paid for will show a pop-up every time you play it - asking whether you’d like to try the free trial or either purchase, enter an unlock code (purchased or given through promotions), or rent the game. More on this below.

From this screen, the user may also rate any of the games downloaded from 1 to 5 stars, as well as write a small verdict on it.

My Profile

The next tab is your profile which shows how many N-Gage points you’ve scored so far from playing, your reputation level (ranging between 1-5 stars), the number of friends you have enlisted, and your chosen avatar/picture to represent you (will display a white silhouette of a person with an orange background per default). Further down is your current status (offline, online or away - the last two can each be assigned with a personal message), N-Gage Point Level, and a list of what games you have played (Gaming History). Selecting one will not only display how many points you’ve gathered within the chosen game - but also show how well your friends are doing with the same game. From here, users are also able to look at what achievements have been unlocked - or Point Pickups as they’re called.

My Friends

This is where you go to add a friend to your friends list as well as check them all out. Once highlighted, you may choose to view recent conversations with the player, send them a message, view his or her profile, and rate the player. Messages can be sent regardless of whether the player is currently online or not and your friends list can be sorted by name, availability/status, or N-Gage points gathered.

Showroom

The Showroom displays all games that are available for download as well as Game Extras for expanding a game with extra content, such as downloading new episodes/adventures for the adventure game Dirk Dagger. Games may be browsed by genre, latest arrivals, or just in alphabetical order. Select a game and you’re able to read a small (though maybe not very informative) description of it along with details on how big it is, estimated time for downloading the game, the number of supported players, who the publisher is etc. Here you may also read what other players think of the game and view their ratings.

Payment can be made by either using a credit card or paying through the phone bill (network operator). Apart from actually purchasing a game, there’s also an option of renting one - where you only need to pay a few euro or dollars in order to get full access for a limited time of either 24 hours or a whole week. When purchased, the games are tied to the user’s account and can be re-downloaded if deleted for some reason.

Games can be downloaded directly to the phone over the air (by GPRS or WiFi), or the user may choose to download it to a computer and then install it onto the phone using a USB-cable and Nokia PC Suite.

Awards

Several of the N-Gage 2.0 games were nominated for International Mobile Gaming Awards in 2007. Two out of three N-Gage 2.0 titles received an award:[18]

ONE by Digital Legends

  • won the Best 3D award

Dirk Dagger and the Fallen Idol by Jadestone

  • won the Best Gameplay award

Hooked On: Creatures of the Deep by Infinite Dreams

  • was nominated for Best Gameplay but did not receive the award

On May 8, 2008, Hooked On: Creatures of the Deep won a Games Award during the 2008 Meffy Awards in Cannes.[19]

Updates

Piror to the closure of N-Gage service,[1] Nokia released updates for the N-Gage application on a regular basis and the first update was made available on October 2, 2008. Dubbed as v1.010_131, this update included the following major changes:

  • There was an issue that occurred when a user reached 10,000 N-Gage Points, the application would exit unexpectedly and refuse to re-start. This issue has been addressed.
  • On some devices, if a user had close to fifty friends the application would behave unexpectedly. This issue has been addressed.
  • An issue where Snakes Subsonic on certain devices would exit unexpectedly when hosting a Bluetooth multiplayer match has been addressed
  • An issue where Blockbreaker Deluxe would exit with an error when a user activated Bluetooth has been addressed
  • There was an issue where the WiFi connection changed to a GPRS connection during Operator Billing. This issue has been addressed.
  • There was an issue where certain games would exit unexpectedly if a user selected 'Cancel' during the Get License.
  • There was an issue where a user would launch a game, and during the 'Attempting Login' screen, could not select the 'Cancel' button. This issue has been addressed.
  • There was an error where the N-Gage Arena Rankings could not be accessed using WLAN when the device is in Offline Mode. This error has been addressed.
  • Some localization issues with Spanish and French have been addressed.
  • An issue where the application would freeze unexpectedly when the device is left idle on the N-Gage Arena terms and conditions page has been addressed.
  • A problem with password retrieval has been addressed.

Version 1.20(1459) was released on May 13, 2009 but didn't do much more than eliminate a few bugs. On August 18, 2009, version 1.40(1557) introduced a new start-up icon, welcoming screen, and way of breaking down the installed games. The speed of the application itself was slightly improved as well.

Updating the application may be done through the app itself - by using the "Check for Updates" function on the device, or it can be downloaded in the "Get N-Gage" section on N-Gage.com.

As of yet, there have been no efforts to eliminate the BiNPDA SecMan exploit through a firmware update.

Technical details

N-Gage games are packaged differently than normal Symbian applications and have the extension ".n-gage" and can only run via the N-Gage application. The game resources are protected by DRM. They cannot use any native Symbian APIs, instead they use a proprietary API from the N-Gage SDK.

The N-Gage API is in fact an extension of the RGA API available in the Open C++ plug-in.[20]

Only select companies are allowed access to the N-Gage SDK. To gain access they first must be approved by Nokia and sign a NDA.

Games library

As of October 23, 2009, there were 49 games released officially on N-Gage. Others games are being cancelled with the closing down of N-Gage service[1] (see further down).

Currently released titles are:

Some of these games are sequels or remakes or ports of the first generation N-Gage MMC games.

Other games that were reportedly in development but are cancelled include:

Launch titles

Six games were originally planned to be available for purchase when the service launched, with the possibility of one or two more being added, but only five made it to the launch: Asphalt 3: Street Rules, Brain Challenge, Hooked On: Creatures of the Deep, System Rush: Evolution and World Series of Poker: Pro Challenge.

Available games

The following list summarizes what games are available for download and purchase as of October 23, 2009.

Title Price Release date
Age of Empires III £8 / €10 April 28, 2009
AMF Bowling: Pinbusters! £6 / €7 June 17, 2009
Asphalt 4: Elite Racing £6 / €10 January 20, 2009
Asphalt 3: Street Rules £4 / €7 April 3, 2008
Block Breaker Deluxe £4 / €7 April 25, 2008
BOOM BLOX £4 / €7 December 3, 2008
Bounce Boing Voyage £4 / €7 August 7, 2008
Brain Challenge £4 / €7 April 3, 2008
Brothers in Arms £4 / €7 July 15, 2008
Café Hold’ Em Poker £6 / €7 April 23, 2009
Café Sudoku £4 / €7 January 27, 2009
Café Solitaire 12-Pack £4 / €7 October 21, 2008
Crash Bandicoot Nitro Kart 3D £6 / €10 December 22, 2008
Dance Fabulous £4 / €5 June 9, 2009
Dirk Dagger and the Fallen Idol £4 / €7 August 19, 2008
Dirk Dagger and the Nuclear Zeppelin £4 / €7 October 15, 2008
Dogz £4 / €7 August 25, 2008
Ducati Moto £4 / €7 September 18, 2009
FIFA 08 £4 / €7 April 7, 2008
FIFA 09 £8 / €10 November 18, 2008
Guitar Hero World Tour £4 / €7 September 18, 2009
Hooked On: Creatures of the Deep £6 / €7 April 3, 2008
Mega Monsters £8 / €10 October 23, 2009
Metal Gear Solid Mobile £8 / €10 December 11, 2008
MONOPOLY Here & Now: The World Edition £6 / €7 March 3, 2009
Midnight Pool £4 / €10 June 27, 2008
Mile High Pinball £4 / €5 May 6, 2008
Million Dollar Poker £6 / €7 June 30, 2009
Need for Speed Undercover £6 / €10 March 17, 2009
ONE £6 / €10 October 28, 2008
Pandemonium £6 / €7 May 6, 2009
Powerboat Challenge £4 / €5 October 23, 2009
Prince of Persia £6 / €10 March 11, 2009
Pro Series Golf £6 / €7 July 3, 2008
Real Football 2009 £6 / €10 March 31, 2009
Reset Generation £4 / €5 August 4, 2008
Resident Evil: Degeneration £8 / €10 December 18, 2008
Snakes Subsonic £4 / €5 May 22, 2008
Space Impact Kappa Base £4 / €5 April 19, 2008
Spore Origins £6 / €7 May 20, 2009
Star Wars: The Force Unleashed £6 / €7 September 16, 2008
System Rush: Evolution £6 / €7 April 3, 2008
Tetris £4 / €5 April 25, 2008
The Sims 2 Pets £4 / €7 June 18, 2008
The Sims 3 £6 / €7 July 14, 2009
Tiger Woods PGA Tour £8 / €10 October 23, 2009
Tomb Raider Underworld £6 / €7 August 25, 2009
World Series of Poker: Pro Challenge £8 / €10 April 3, 2008
Worms World Party £8 / €10 April 7, 2009

Closure of N-Gage

On October 30, 2009, Nokia announces that no new N-Gage games will be produced, effectively killing the N-Gage. All N-Gage services, which includes purchasing of games and various online features, had reportedly ceased operation at the end of 2010.[1]

On March 31, 2011 Nokia closed their DRM activation service leaving customers without the possibility to reactivate their purchases in the case of a device format or software update[29]. No transition of their purchases was made to the Ovi store, and no compensation was given because according to their support staff; software purchases are only supported for 1 year.

Some gaming websites e.g. Pocket Gamer[30] link N-Gage's failure to the overwhelming competition it faces from the Apple iPhone, while Ovi Gaming[31] cited poor implemention and support that Nokia provides.

See also

References

  1. ^ a b c d http://www.n-gage.com/ngi/ngage/web/g0/en/support/faq.html?qt=what%20will%20happen%20in%202010
  2. ^ "N-Gage First Access Ending Soon". N-Gage Blog. Archived from the original on 2008-03-22. http://web.archive.org/web/20080322205334/http://blog.n-gage.com/archive/faupdate2/. Retrieved 2008-03-20. 
  3. ^ Nokia N-Gage FAQ
  4. ^ a b http://blog.n-gage.com/archive/n85-n79-two-new-nseries-devices/
  5. ^ N-Gage software download and compatibiltiy matrix
  6. ^ http://blog.n-gage.com/archive/more-n-gage-devices-revealed/ More N-Gage Devices revealed
  7. ^ "N-Gage | Nokia E52". Nokia. http://n-gage.com/ngi/ngage/web/ua/en/get_ngage/devices/e52.html. Retrieved 2010-07-29. 
  8. ^ http://www.pocketgamer.co.uk/r/N-Gage/N-Gage+(next+gen+platform)/news.asp?c=11630 New Eseries phones boast N-Gage support
  9. ^ http://blog.n-gage.com/archive/more-n-gage-devices-revealed/ More N-Gage devices revealed
  10. ^ "Nokia N97 Data Sheet" (PDF). Nokia. http://events.nokia.com/nokiaworld/assets/pdf/Data_Sheet_Nokia%20N97.pdf. Retrieved 2008-12-04. [dead link]
  11. ^ http://blog.n-gage.com/archive/n-gage-now-supports-the-nokia-5320-and-n96/
  12. ^ http://blog.n-gage.com/archive/a-new-n-gage-device/ A new N-Gage device
  13. ^ http://blog.n-gage.com/archive/n-gage-family-grows-with-nokia-5730-xpressmusic/ The N-Gage family grows with Nokia 5730
  14. ^ a b N-Gage boss Jaakko on memory issues with the N73
  15. ^ http://forums.arena.n-gage.com/nokia/board/message?board.id=ngageenableddevices&message.id=3126#M3126 No N-Gage support for N73, N93 or N93i
  16. ^ Interview by Pocket Gamer
  17. ^ Nokia N-Gage press release
  18. ^ "IMGAwards 2007". IMGAwards. http://www.imgawards.com/2007_nominees.php. Retrieved 2008-03-11. [dead link]
  19. ^ Hooked On: COTD wins Meffy Award
  20. ^ http://www.forum.nokia.com/main/resources/tools_and_sdks/openc_cpp/index.html
  21. ^ "Creebies, Dirk Spanner for N-Gage". N-Gage Blog. Archived from the original on 2008-01-16. http://web.archive.org/web/20080116155723/http://blog.n-gage.com/archive/creebies/. Retrieved 2007-12-15. 
  22. ^ "Mobile detective adventure begins on N-Gage". Nokia. http://www.nokia.com/A4136001?newsid=1176524. Retrieved 2007-12-17. 
  23. ^ "Exclusive: Nokia goes multi-format with secret next-gen N-Gage title". Pocket Gamer. http://www.pocketgamer.co.uk/r/N%2DGage/Project+White+Rock+%28working+title%29/news.asp?c=3499. Retrieved 2007-09-24. 
  24. ^ a b c d http://www.fishlabs.net/en/press_releases/fishlabs-and-nokia-sign-n-gage-agreement?year=2009&page=0 Fishlabs and Nokia sign N-Gage agreement
  25. ^ "Create and care for your own virtual pet on your Nokia device". Nokia. http://www.nokia.com/A4136001?newsid=1175532. Retrieved 2007-04-07. 
  26. ^ a b c "GDC: Glu Games for N-Gage". N-Gage Blog. http://blog.n-gage.com/archive/glugames/. Retrieved 2007-02-18. [dead link]
  27. ^ a b c "Glu Mobile unveils initial line-up of titles coming to Nokia N-Gage". Nokia. http://www.nokia.com/A4136001?newsid=1192753. Retrieved 2007-02-18. 
  28. ^ a b c "Next Gen N-Gage games revealed". All About N-Gage. http://www.allaboutngage.com/news/item/5829_Next_Gen_N-Gage_games_revealed.php. Retrieved 2007-09-08. 
  29. ^ http://blog.ovi.com/2011/03/31/are-you-n-gage-user-you-will-love-ovi/
  30. ^ http://www.pocketgamer.co.uk/r/N-Gage/feature.asp?c=17517
  31. ^ http://www.ovigaming.com/features/item/What_will_Nokia_learn_from_the_Failure_of_N-Gage.php

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