January 19th, 2005, 12:04
Rumours spreading across the internet have suggested that Nokia's N-Gage gaming and mobile phone unit may be about to get killed off - but Nokia has told us that they're not hanging up on N-Gage just yet.[br]"Nokia have no intention of shutting down the N-Gage," we were told by a spokesperson for N-Gage today. "We are completely committed to the platform. It's not going anywhere."[br][br]The speculation arose when technology website The Inquirer reported that Nokia are planning to shut down the N-Gage R&D and production facility in Germany amongst a number of budget cutbacks. Quoting sources close to Nokia's HQ, The Inquirer suggested that the closure meant the N-Gage was N-Trouble.[br][br]"These rumours are completely without foundation," we were told.[br][br]The N-Gage, which was developed in house at Nokia and combines the functions of a handheld console and a mobile phone, limped onto the scene back in 2003. A number of design faults - including the need to dismantle the unit to change games and a mouthpiece that required you to hold the phone sideways against your head - turned both gamers and mobile phone fans against the system.[br][br]Nokia managed to regain some credibility by releasing the vastly improved N-Gage QD last summer. A smaller unit and sleeker styling certainly made the unit more appealing, but sales remained light.[br][br]But Nokia see a bright future for their platform, even with terrifying competition just around the corner in the shape of Nintendo's DS and Sony's PSP. "We're looking at the strongest line-up of games yet for N-Gage," said the spokesperson. "There's been so much money and effort poured into the system we're not going to pull out now."[br][br]There are indeed a few interesting N-Gage titles on the horizon, with WW2 strategy sim Pathways to Glory receiving favourable reviews and MMORPG Pocket Kingdoms gathering buzz.[br][br]Nonetheless, earlier this month N-Gage was dealt an embarrassing blow by software chart compilers ChartTrack, who delisted the platform from the weekly multiformat sales chart citing "a lack of interest" among gamers. Nokia claim that N-Gage software sales are still being calculated for the monthly chart, but admit that sales are low in comparison with other formats.[br][br]Whatever the outcome of the speculation, N-Gage faces a tough 2005 as DS and PSP rev up for their European launches in March. With two dedicated handheld games platforms with proven track records available for - if speculation is to be believed - relatively affordable prices, N-Gage may well have to give up the fight for survival.[br][br]We'll bring you more news on the fate of the N-Gage as it emerges.