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  • wraggster

    by Published on April 20th, 2004 17:35

    Nintendo has today announced that it will release a limited-edition "Tribal" Game Boy Advance SP console in Europe on June 18. The console will be available for a limited time only and is expected to retail for the same price as other GBA SP models.
    "We feel we have created a product in the Tribal edition that reflects the sentiments of today's youth--rebellion, attractiveness, and spirituality," said Tim Freystedt, European marketing manager for Game Boy Advance at Nintendo. "The new console allows gamers to express these emotions in a fun and interactive way, enabling them to communicate their individuality."
    "The tattoo pattern on the console looks pretty cool," added Mister Cartoon, tattoo artist for celebrities such as 50 Cent, Eminem, Justin Timberlake, and Beyonce. "Tattoos are huge at the moment--everyone wants one. I think the console is great and will be a huge success with the more individual gamer."
    No North American release for the "Tribal" GBA SP has been confirmed at this time, but we'll bring you more information as soon as it becomes available. ...
    by Published on April 15th, 2004 01:26

    More News about the N-Gage QD

    You've probably read in various magazines that Nokias N-Gage hardly set the gaming world alight which was clearly recognised by the company themselves as they've decided to relaunch it with some minor adjustments. Here's the full press release...

    Nokia today announced the N-Gage QD mobile game deck, the latest addition to the N-Gage platform. The N-Gage QD is a compact device with a hot-swappable multimedia (MMC) slot for instant gaming, longer battery life, improved gaming controls, brighter screen, powerful smartphone features and the new N-Gage Arena launcher application. Gamers will be able to play all of their favorite N-Gage titles, connect to the worldwide mobile gaming community over mobile networks via the N-Gage Arena as well as take part in close-range mobile multiplayer gaming via Bluetooth wireless technology.

    The planned range of prices is expected to be from USD$99 with a contract to USD$199 as an unsubsidized, untaxed retail price. The N-Gage QD game deck is expected to be available in May 2004 for Europe, Africa and Asia Pacific and in June 2004 for the Americas. The N-Gage QD will be available in two versions: a GSM 900/1800 variant (Europe, Africa and Asia Pacific) and a GSM 850/1900 variant (Americas).

    "After six months on the market with the N-Gage platform, we wanted to expand our device portfolio based on the feedback we've received," said Nokia's Senior Vice President of Games, Ilkka Raiskinen. "With improved gaming ergonomics, gamers can now start to play games at the push of a button and enjoy the increased responsiveness of the game keys. We also added support for hot-swap MMC and extended the battery life. For phone calls, we reoriented the speaker and microphone to support 'classic talking'."

    The N-Gage QD game deck supports existing N-Gage game titles as well forthcoming N-Gage exclusive titles like Ashen, Pathway to Glory and Pocket Kingdom: Own The World, and blockbuster hits like The Sims: Bustin' Out, Crash Nitro Kart and Tiger Woods PGA TOUR 2004.

    The new N-Gage Arena launcher makes accessing the N-Gage Arena even easier than before. The launcher is a software application preinstalled on the N-Gage QD device that allows gamers full access to the N-Gage Arena community directly from their game deck. Once installed, the launcher is accessed from an icon in the game deck's main applications menu, similar to other N-Gage software.

    Using the launcher via a GPRS connection, N-Gage Arena members can communicate with one another, download exclusive content, access rankings statistics, participate in events and activities, and more. Existing N-Gage users will be able download the N-Gage Arena launcher from www.n-gage.com in May 2004.

    The N-Gage QD game deck also supports advanced smartphone features such as personal information management, XHTML browser, email and the possibility to download and install additional Series 60 applications.

    The N-Gage QD game deck will be showcased at this year's Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) in Los Angeles, California from May 12 to 14, 2004. The N-Gage booth (South Hall, 1524) will also have the latest in high-profile exclusive N-Gage titles and blockbuster hits. For more information on the N-Gage QD game deck, log on to www.n-gage.com/qd. ...
    by Published on April 14th, 2004 09:59

    A report indicates that Nintendo will unveil a new peripheral for the company's GameCube at the upcoming E3 in LA. The report, which cites the Kyoto Shimbun ( a newspaper based in Kyoto) as its source, claims that they have received official confirmation from Nintendo's Japanese public relations office regarding "the appearance of new hardware at the trade show which will add new functionality to the Cube."
    At this point the device is rumored to be something along the lines of Sony's EyeToy, but speculation as to exactly what the peripheral will be is sure to persist in the coming weeks leading up to the Expo.
    This May's E3 is shaping up to be an interesting, and potentially vital event for the three major console manufactures as Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo are expected to reveal their plans for the next generation of gaming. With new hardware and even groundbreaking handheld devices on display, we should get a good idea as to what the future gaming landscape will look like in just a few short weeks. ...
    by Published on April 14th, 2004 09:55

    As the Finnish mobile communications giant unveils the second generation of N-Gage hardware, Rob Fahey speaks to Nokia's head of games, Ilkka Raiskinen, about the company's plans for the future - and lessons from the past year.


    You might reasonably expect Nokia's head of games to be somewhat guarded around the games press. It's been a tough year for the ambitions of the Finnish company in that sector, after all - one in which the firm has been repeatedly savaged in the media, first in the specialist press but later in mainstream newspapers and magazines, for a series of disastrous decisions related to the launch of the N-Gage console. From the deeply flawed design of the system, through the cringe-worthy press conference at E3 last year, to the damaging post-launch dithering about sales figures, Nokia has had a tough time of it - and the press has been there every step of the way to make sure that their failures are highlighted. You could understand, then, if the man at whose desk the buck for the company's entire gaming operations stops wasn't happy to see games media representatives on his doorstep.

    In fact, the opposite is true. Ilkka Raiskinen, Nokia's vice president in charge of games, was honest, open and talkative when we met him in the icy Finnish capital of Helsinki to discuss the company's new update to the N-Gage platform, N-Gage QD, its forthcoming portfolio of software and online services, its plans for the future and - perhaps - the lessons it has learned from the past year. Raiskinen, in fact, embodies the attitude of every Nokia executive we met at the company's stunning headquarters building - although there's some obvious trepidation at showing the QD to the games press for the first time, he, and the company as a whole, exudes a quiet confidence that is very different from the brash, self-assured and arrogant brand of confidence which was in evidence from the firm at the original N-Gage launch in London in February of last year.

    Then, Nokia assured us that they were entering the games industry with a product which would quickly grab an enormous slice of the marketplace that the rest of the platform holders had completely ignored. They would take over this new "mobile online gaming" sector, become a major player, and even the might of Nintendo's Game Boy Advance was inconsequential. Nokia wasn't a company used to losing battles in the mobile space, and it showed. A year later, the mood has changed - there's a tacit admission that a battle was lost (although how badly is a matter of argument), but a quiet determination that the war will be won. Lessons have been learned; Raiskinen, and Nokia, are now confident not because of the company's past successes, but because they believe that in the QD and their forthcoming software line-ups, they have a genuinely excellent combination of platform and titles. Lessons have been learned, and with them humility - and Nokia is no longer an outsider barging into the games industry without understanding what it's getting into, but rather is a games industry company with the experience of an exceptionally tough product launch behind it.


    Learning Experience

    In fact, Nokia has been learning lessons right from the moment that N-Gage took its first public bow - even if it hasn't always showed it in public. N-Gage QD, a device which answers most of the key criticisms about its predecessor, has been in planning since well before the launch of the original N-Gage, Raiskinen tells us. "We started to get feedback after the initial launch [in February 2003], and after the launch we discussed which features we should incorporate in the first version and which in the second version," he explains.

    "We started to develop QD before October 7th [the global launch date of the N-Gage] - it was a pretty tight schedule and that's something we want to continue to have, if need be," he adds, referring to the company's intention to continue adding new N-Gage decks to the product line-up as it perceives a market desire for them.

    Although Raiskinen is very honest about the fact that the company made mistakes with the N-Gage, he's adamant that plenty of things went right, as well - and he says that Nokia never even considered dropping the N-Gage brand and starting fresh with the QD. "No, not at all," he responds when asked about the possibility "We have been getting critique on various features of N-Gage, but I still believe that N-Gage - of course we have been conducting some studies there, and we want to prove that N-Gage means mobile online gaming, and the content and the games are the key, not the device."

    "We didn't consider [changing the brand] at all, and we believe that the N-Gage brand has a good appeal, especially amongst younger people and maybe casual gamers," he continues. "I think the feedback very often has come from the hardcore gamers who have compared the game experience on N-Gage to the game experience on the consoles, and of course they have been right in criticising N-Gage from ...
    by Published on April 14th, 2004 09:48

    Yet More NGAGE NEWS :P

    Mobile communications giant Nokia has taken the wraps off the new version of its N-Gage game platform, N-Gage QD, revealing a substantially redesigned and cheaper device which will begin appearing on retail shelves next month.

    The Finnish company claims to have listened to criticisms levelled against the N-Gage by consumers and press alike, and N-Gage QD represents a major overhaul of the phone in terms of both looks and usability.

    The new device is significantly smaller than the original N-Gage, albeit slightly thicker, and sports a rugged look - including a rubber ring to protect it from falling damage and tough flaps over the external ports - which not only makes it more solid, but should help it to appeal to its target audience of teenagers and young adults. [Pictures can be found at the bottom of this article.]

    Crucially, the key design flaws of the original device have been fixed - gone is the much-maligned "sidetalking" placement of the speakers and microphone, replaced with a conventional positioning on the fascia of the phone, while games can now be hot swapped into an MMC card slot on the exterior of the phone without needing to remove the back.

    The screen of the system is significantly brighter and clearer than the one used on the original N-Gage, and the D-pad controller has been made more comfortable to use in games. The N-Gage QD also sports changeable covers and keys, like many of the phones in Nokia's line-up which are aimed at the youth market. Contrary to Internet rumours circulating this week, however, the new device does not have a camera of any description built in.

    However, on the inside of the device, the technology used is the same as the N-Gage - and Nokia is emphatic that this device does not represent "N-Gage 2", a term which it is saving for a generational leap forward to an entirely new platform which it already has on its roadmap for the future.

    The new game deck is expected to retail at a lower price than its predecessor, and this time around Nokia is arranging a variety of official bundles with local mobile operators around the globe in order to avoid the confusion over pricing which reigned at the launch of the N-Gage.

    N-Gage QD will retail at three distinct price points, with 199 Euro being the "bare bones" retail cost while official operator bundles will also exist at the 149 Euro and 99 Euro price points. It's also likely that operators will launch their own deals in individual territories, which may see the QD being priced down as low as being offered for free with selected operator contracts.

    In order to hit those price points - which are extremely low for a Series 60 smartphone device - Nokia has removed a number of functions from the N-Gage QD, with the Finnish company explaining that its feedback suggested that users were more interested in a smaller, cheaper device than in the additional functionality of the original N-Gage.

    Gone is the FM Radio tuner from the original deck, and MP3 music playback is also no longer offered by default. Gone also are certain smartphone applications which are provided as standard with other Series 60 phones. However, with the exception of the FM radio, Nokia points out that all of these functions can be replaced with easily downloadable Symbian OS applications.

    Nokia will not be withdrawing the original N-Gage from the market with the launch of the QD (the acronym doesn't stand for anything, by the way - although a Nokia presentation about the device suggested the Latin "Quaeque Dies," meaning "Every Day," as one expansion of the letters, and we're sure that Internet wags will soon think of plenty more), preferring to see the new deck as an expansion of the N-Gage platform rather than a replacement for the original device - although it does anticipate that some retailers, particularly in the USA, may choose to carry only the QD.

    As such, the company has also hinted that a number of other N-Gage decks with a varying types of non-games functionality and designs could be launched into the marketplace in the coming months or years, with each device providing a different way of accessing the N-Gage platform. However, no further plans to this effect were revealed in our conversations with Nokia executives regarding the new launch.

    N-Gage QD will roll out worldwide during the month of May, although unlike its predecessor, it will not have a simultaneous worldwide launch date - with the new device simply arriving in retail locations as stock arrives, and being treated as a standard hardware launch rather than a game console debut. ...
    by Published on April 14th, 2004 09:45

    The latest annual league tables for software publishers in Japan show that Nintendo built a comfortable lead on its competition during the past year, despite the fact that sales of Pokemon titles are not included in its figures.

    Nintendo sold some 6.5 million units of software during the year to March 31st, according to Japanese magazine publisher and market research firm Enterbrain, which is the company behind the highly respected Famitsu magazine.

    Square Enix came in second place in the league table, with almost four million units sold, while sometime challenger for the top spot Konami slipped to sixth place from last year's number four in the ranking.

    Nintendo's figures are all the more impressive when you consider that they do not include sales of Pokemon related goods such as the multi-million selling Pokemon Fire Red / Leaf Green pair, whose combined sales made them into Japan's best selling game of the year.

    Sales of Pokemon titles are now registered under a separately floated company, the Pokemon Company, in which Nintendo retains a 30 per cent stake. If the sales of both firms are combined, Nintendo outsold its nearest competitor by a factor of over two to one last year. ...
    by Published on April 14th, 2004 09:39

    Full details on Nokia's successor to its N-Gage mobile gaming device have been revealed today, ahead of tomorrow's full global press briefing.
    As has been widely expected, the key design faults of the original model have been drastically overhauled: the 'deck no longer requires the user to remove the battery to insert games; instead, you insert and remove game cards via a slot at the bottom of the phone, protected with a rubber guard.

    The new gamedeck will be sold alongside the existing model; while the new design looks rather more chic than its predeccessor, this revamped version of the N-Gage has sacrificed some of the functionality of the original deck. The MP3 player and radio have been removed from this latest version.

    The new N-Gage is smaller but less slender than last year's model, while the rubber casing should make the deck both more comfortable to hold and also more durable.

    From a technological standpoint, N-Gage's vertical screen remains, though this screen can display 65,000 colours - the original N-Gage could only manage 4096. All games will be compatible with both versions of the N-Gage, however.

    The keyboard layout remains similar to the first unit, though there's now a separate 'select' button to the side of the D-pad.

    Crucially, where the original unit required mortified users to clamp the phone to their ear at a side-on angle - a phenomenon dubbed "Sidetalking" and universally derided - the new model handles like a regular mobile.

    Whilst it's geniunely incredible certain aspects of the original model made it out of R&D at all, Nokia must be applauded for creating the device N-Gage really should have been like in the first place. And if there were any lingering doubts over the Finnish company's long-term commitment to its phone/games console hybrid, they have been dashed by this important strategic repositioning.

    Aside from removing the needless problems stemming from game card swapping and phone utilisation, Nokia's major leap forward with the remodelled N-Gage is to tighten the focus of what the device actually is.

    Gone, Nokia hopes, is the confusion over its phone/mp3 player/radio/games console/vacuum cleaner/whatever; the new N-Gage brings with it a sharp focus on gaming, illustrated by the scrapping of mp3 and radio functionality.

    What now remains to be seen is how much damage the problems associated with the current model have done to consumer perception and the N-Gage brand as a whole. The new model is a positive, sensible step forward and Nokia has certainly been able to bring big-name franchise onto the unit, but until now sales have been dismal to say the least. With Nokia now insisting it really is all about the games after all, the time has come for N-Gage to deliver with triple-A, exclusive software.

    Nokia will make the full announcement about the new N-Gage tomorrow; we'll bring you a full report and first official images then. ...
    by Published on April 13th, 2004 19:39

    Nokia are expected to confirm details of an improved version of their N-Gage handheld games machine at a press event that takes place tomorrow (14 April) in London - although early images of the device have already leaked on to the net.

    The design of the new N-Gage - which isn't N-Gage 2 but simply an updated version of the existing machine - addresses many of the fundamental problems that the original was criticised for. So you'll now be able to slot games straight into it - as you can with a Game Boy - as opposed to having to remove the battery every time you wanted to swap between different titles.

    And the new N-Gage will also allow users to hold it like a traditional mobile phone, as opposed to the widely derided original design which forced you to hold it on its side.

    The new design - which apparently will be made available in addition to, not instead of, the current model - also drops MP3 support and the radio in a bid to refocus on its game-playing capabilities, although both models will be able to play exactly the same games.

    However, reports elsewhere that the new N-Gage will feature a built-in camera appear to be wide of the mark - while one of the early images of N-Gage 1.5 does include a 'camera' menu option, the hardware doesn't seem to have a camera, so it's probable that this is just temporary software. We'll have loads more on N-Gage 1.5 later this week.

    Heres some pictures









    What do you think of it? ...
    by Published on April 13th, 2004 19:26

    The DS handheld will not be the only new hardware on show at Nintendo's E3 conference, according to a Japanese newspaper which this week reported that the company has a new Cube peripheral to unveil.

    Kyoto Shimbun - a newspaper based, as the name suggests, in Nintendo's home city of Kyoto - cites official confirmation from the platform holder's Japanese public relations office regarding the appearance of new hardware at the trade show which will add new functionality to the Cube.

    The company likened the new peripheral to Sony's EyeToy device - a product which Nintendo executives seem to view as an embarrassing coup for Sony, and a threatening move into a product sector which has traditionally been Nintendo's own.

    Speculation over the nature of the peripheral is likely to be rife in the run up to next month's show, as is the already simmering speculation that Nintendo may use this year's show as a platform to launch its online gaming ambitions for the Cube - despite the fact that the company's official line on online console gaming remains an incredibly cautious one.

    The suggestion that Nintendo would launch new Cube peripherals in the near future first emerged earlier this year when the company reaffirmed its commitment to the GameCube as a platform for new hardware and software products. However, that announcement was overshadowed by the flood of coverage which misinterpreted the comments from company president Satoru Iwata as implying that the company was bowing out of the next generation console race in favour of sticking with the Cube in the long term.

    Whats your views? ...
    by Published on April 13th, 2004 19:16

    Enterbrain Inc may not be the most well known source for industry info, but President Hirokazu Hamamura of the Japanese magazine publisher has announced that Nintendo will unveil a whopping thirty titles for its portable DS console at this year's E3.
    Referring to the DS, Hamamura is quoted as saying: "This will be a product unlike anything available right now." The publishing magnate also confirmed that the DS "will come with a touch panel."

    Enterbrain had more positive news regarding Nintendo, which was the number one games publisher in Japan for the business year ending March 31.

    Meanwhile, more as yet unsubstantiated rumours suggest Nintendo is set to showcase a mysterious new peripheral for the GameCube at E3. A spokesperson at Nintendo of Europe refused to comment. ...