Nokia plugs technology hole with Sega technology

Moving to plug a hole in its ambitious expansion into online multiplayer games, Nokia has agreed to acquire back-end server technology from Sega.

Under a deal announced Wednesday, Nokia will acquire for an undisclosed amount Sega.com whose primary asset is the multiplayer gaming software, Sega Network Application Package (SNAP), the Espoo, Finland, mobile phone manufacturer said in a statement.

"Development of online multiplayer games requires server technology, which has been missing at Nokia," Ilkka Raiskinen, senior vice president of mobile entertainment and media business at Nokia, said in a conference call. "Today's announcement will change this."

Nokia plans to incorporate SNAP technology into its N-Gage wireless gaming device, scheduled to begin shipping worldwide on Oct. 7, as well as several other terminals, according to Raiskinen. The Finnish company and Sega.com have been collaborating on this front for the past six months, he said.

In February, Nokia announced plans to launch its new N-Gage device, which is both a games console and cell phone. The device offers both Bluetooth short-range wireless networking capability, which allows gamers to play with others in the same room, and GPRS (General Packet Radio Service) connectivity to enable multiplayer online gaming over a wide area network, Raiskinen said.

With SNAP technology, Nokia expects to bring online games to market faster because its software engineers will now have direct access to back-end network technology, thus speeding up product development and testing cycles, according to Raiskinen.

"Also, by owning Sega.com, we will have control of the future roadmap of SNAP technology, allowing us to better align the back-end technology with the games running over the N-Gage game deck," said Pasi Polonen, director of games publishing at Nokia.

Calling the acquisition a "perfect fit," Sega.com Chief Operating Officer Gerard Wiener said the deal will allow Nokia to take the gaming industry, in general, and SNAP technology, in particular, to "a whole other level." He referred to the technology as a key building block for developing community games.

Nokia will license SNAP technology to third parties, including other console vendors, publishers and network operators, Raiskinen said.

The Finnish company declined to comment on whether Sega.com, which is located in San Francisco, is profitable.

Another Nokia spokeswoman, Kenya Rodgers, earlier said Sega.com's 51 employees will all get offers to join Nokia, while the company's San Francisco office will become part of Nokia Mobile Phones' Entertainment and Media unit.

The network entertainment unit of Japan's Sega group, Sega.com built the first Internet-enabled games console, according to Wiener.

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