There's a surprising amount of what I consider to be defensive
reactions to the critical appraisals the N-Gage is receiving. I
thought it was universally despised. As I've said in a previous
post my background is in games, and living in Japan I've got a
pretty good idea what the situation is like here for gaming
It's important to stress that Nokia has been marketing it as a
gaming platform. Last month's Edge magazine (A UK
publication) has a large N-Gage brochure, and their website is
very game-centric. Nokia's trying to say it's a game machine
first and foremost, but as a game system it is if not a dead
horse, then at least a crippled one. I'd like to offer the reasons
I think the N-Gage is totally abysmal as a game platform.
The points covered below are: the pad, carts, screen, price,
network, size and library.
1. The d-pad is crap. Nearly every gaming controller in the
universe has a d-pad that has some play before and after
making contact, they're relatively soft and there's only a mild
resistance before 'click'-ing into place. The N-Gage is more
like a celphone controller, with a _very_ stiff resistance before
contact. While this will help prevent accidental pressing in a
pocket it's just not suitable for any kind of action gaming.
Naturally you'll acclimatize, but out of the box it's very
unfriendly. It's not an action- game friendly pad. It is,
however, better than most PHONE pads.
2. We've all heard about the cartridge changing procedure, but
it bears repeating: Remove phone cover (it's as big as the
entire phone, it's not a mere battery cover. This in itself is a
bizarre choice), remove the battery, remove game. Insert new
game, insert battery, replace cover. This is a five-step
procedure, exactly three steps more than any portable console
ever released.* When I took the following picture at TGS the
Ngage rep looked pretty resigned to his fate, but to his credit
he didn't hesitate to let me take the pic.
3. The screen doesn't match up to the modern cellular phones
or game systems. It has a wonderful backlight but lower
resolution than screen is vertical, which is a design choice I
have no problem with, but some do. Historically more than
95% of games released in the arcade are Horizontal, and 100%
of the home games are the same. There are exactly zero
games on portable systems that require or utilize a rotated
4. The hardware price is too high. Pathetic sales have, if the
rumours are to be believed, forced a 1/3 price reduction not
three weeks after release. That's a record. Software pricing is
about right for the game market, with prices about the same as
GameBoy Advance software.
5. The wireless networking is a boon to gamers, this is Nokia's
only game-friendly feature, IMHO. It's not new though, SNK's
NeoGeo Pocket had a wireless radio network module, as does
the Korean GamePark 32 (though neither was well supported).
Not having to physically connect to your mates is a huge
advantage, but the idea of playing anonymous strangers on
your way to work, as has been bandied about in the press, is
(again IMO) never going to happen.
6. Size: It's too big. It's bigger than a GBA by 15%, and the GBA
is already too large for many pockets. My current phone is
about one third the size when closed, but a little thicker. The
very idea of holding it against your head edgewise is bad. Even
if you get used to it you're only inviting riducule, though this is
arguably a phase that will pass. It speaks volumes however
about Nokia's arrogance or idiocy when they designed it. Was
this just to keep the screen from getting gummed up at trade
shows? Here's some comical pics of the device in use:
7. The game library is too limited. No console in recent
memory has launched with so few titles, and so few promised
for the future. The N-Gage is the first console in history to
launch with zero original content. It's never, ever happened
Footnotes Nokia should have learned from:
* The Atari Lynx required you do open a flap before changing
the cart, they learned their lesson for the model 2 Lynx.
** Bandai's WonderSwan could be rotated, but few games used
it, it didn't sell well, and it's now out of production.
*** Maybe the Atari 5200 or 7800 had a library of ports, but it
could be argued this was the final nail in Atari's coffin, and the
straw that broke the game industry's back.
Received on Sun Oct 26 16:08:20 2003