Nokia jumps into games market with console platform

Nokia Corp., the world's largest mobile-phone maker, continued its move into the mobile games market with the launch of a portable game console platform that could compete with such products as Nintendo Co. Ltd.'s Game Boy.

Launched at its Nokia Mobile Internet Conference in Munich, the handheld games console, which will have a color screen and a wireless connection, will be formally introduced in February, said Ilkka Raiskien, senior vice president for entertainment and media.

"The announcement we made on Monday was about the platform and that it is now available for developers: to let them see what it looks like and what we have in mind. Between now and February, we will be working closely with publishers and developers," Raiskien said.

Nokia plans to introduce the N-Gage mobile game deck device, which will run on the Nokia Series 60 platform and the Symbian operating system, along with a number of branded game titles from games publishers and developers, the Espoo, Finland, company said in a statement.

"Come February, we will announce the price, who we are working with, the size of the device, when consumers can buy it -- all of the details. I can say that it will be a global launch," Raiskien said.

Nokia did announce, also on Monday, that one of those partners is Sega Corp., one of the world’s largest games publishers. Sega will develop games for the N-Gage which will then be made available separately on memory cards, Nokia said in a separate statement. Nokia plans to act as distributor for the memory cards, from Sega and other companies, in effect making the company a game publisher. Raiskien declined to comment on if Nokia will also be developing the memory cards themselves or if the consoles will be able to use standard memory cards.

As the sale of its mobile handsets begin to slow down in an increasingly saturated market, Nokia sees the gaming market as an important segment for the company. Last month, Nokia estimated the worldwide handset market grew 13 percent to 103 million units in the third quarter while reiterating its forecast that 400 million handsets will be sold worldwide this year, a figure only slightly better than the previous year.

"Gaming is really important and there is lots of evidence that consumers like the level of gaming features already introduced and also in the development stages. The idea is to now take the game play to the next level," Raiskien said.

Many of the new devices Nokia is demonstrating at the Mobile Internet Conference this week, including five mobile phones and a text messaging device, are designed to allow users to do other things, such as play games, as well as make voice calls.

Nokia has been making moves into the gaming market over the past year. In an effort to bring games to mobile phones, in August, Nokia announced its partnership to with the South Korean video game industry, specifically the Korea Game Development & Promotion Institute (KGDI), an agency backed by the South Korean government that promotes the country's games industry.

Also appealing for Nokia is that most games in South Korea are written for phones that support J2ME (Java 2 Micro Edition), have large color screens and can easily be adapted into content to mobile phone users.

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Laura Rohde

PC World
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