Awards Won: GAMING LOWLIGHT of 2003
Must we kick a system when it’s down. Well, alas poor N-Gage, you never really got up. Criticized from Day One for being overpriced, having bad games, and that it’s creator had no clue about the gaming industry, there were more Neo Geo Pocket Colours sold at EB’s around North America than N-Gages. On it’s launch day. And the NGPC was dead for about 2 years prior.
We all remember the “sidetalkin’” jokes. The comparisons to a Taco. The horrible attempts to make it hip, and Nokia driving a dump truck full of money up to the then 411mania Games staff and saying “Work for us.” Okay, it was my house and Bebito and Pankonin can certainly recall my “So much money! BUT IT’S EEEEVIL MONEY.” issues.
And it got worse. The titles were awful. 3rd party support was non existant, and it was proven that the N-Gage was easy to hack into. Not even a super low price and a revamped design called the QD could save this system.
Oddly enough, Nokia still tries to pimp this thing as if it’s still alive and kicking. Poor, poor Nokia. My only regret is that the RIFTS title for this system never got ported to the GBA. I mean, RIFTS!
The history of the videogame industry is littered with the corpses of systems that tried to be too much, too soon. Systems from the Fairchild F of the 70s, up through the Turbo Express and Neo Geo home console, past the Virtual Boy and the 32X and ending at the Gizmondo and Phantom, there always has been and always will be companies hoping to “cash-in” on video games in an effort to gain a foothold in the industry by promising things that gamers either don’t need, don’t want, or aren’t ready for.
The N-Gage was probably the most spectacular failure of all of them.
Nokia figured that they could appeal their phones to gamers by putting out a game system that could make phone calls and otherwise be a gaming system. Even forgetting the logistics of the system itself, what people forgot was that the N-Gage was doomed to fail from the start. People don’t want their cell phones to play complicated games; that much has been proven even years later, as the largest sellers are simplistic games like Bejewled and Frogger. When I previewed the mobile versions of Madden ’07 back in June, I thought they would fail on the basis that it is almost physically impossible to play that needed precise control like Madden on something the size of a cellular phone; I have proven to be right. If you make the phone any bigger, it won’t sell because it’s too big in an era where hardware is getting smaller and smaller. Make it smaller, and even playing the simplest games proves neigh impossible. This was as much the case in 2003 as it is in 2006.
Then, other issues started coming out. Delays rocked the system, which had a hellacious marketing blitz. Later, the press reported that the game selection was anywhere from below average to pathetic, depending on who you listened to. Then, the system was released in gaming stores at astronomical prices. Finally, the design of the phone was pathetic; you had to put it on it’s side in order to talk on it, and you literally had to open the case to get games in and out. It was a colossal commercial failure on all levels.
Nokia tried to go through damage control with a later revamping of the system’s design that made it more comfortable and required less than an engineering degree to get a game in and out of the system, but by then, the damage had been done; the N-Gage name had permanently been scarred.
N-Gage was nothing special in history; it was another system born in a corporate conference room by someone looking to coallate their synergies or some other markish bullshit, and it died because it was not only too much for the year that it came out in, it was horribly designed at every single level. N-Gage will always be synonymous with failure, no matter how hard Nokia tries to change that.
I’d feel a lot more strongly about this if good games didn’t come out for the system. I mean, did you play Pocket Kingdom? That was really cool. Anyway, good games aside, The Ngage was still a piece of crap. Having to remove the battery to change your game was a major strike against it, as was the fact that you could really only use it with certain cell phone carriers, and you really weren’t about to buy one if you couldn’t use the phone (not that the phone was any good; Sidetalking, anyone?), as the damn thing cost way more than a GBA. The system as a collective whole was an ill-concieved mess, and the fact that the NGAGE is more or less dead proves that better than anything any of us could possibly say.