iPhone kills N-Gage by proxy

Nokia announced an and to the N-Gage mobile gaming service, with plans to roll the Nokia gaming service into the company’s app store.

Nokia launched N-Gage in August 2003 to lure gamers away from the Game Boy Advance. The original device was met with mixed reception due to it being “meh” on both the “as a phone” and “as a handheld gaming device” fronts. From 2005-2008, Nokia shifted the focus from a gaming device to a platform, and rolled out game-playing capabilities for smartphones.

If the concept had a hard time sticking before that, the iPhone seems to have killed off N-Gage for keeps. Nokia announced that the service is being retired in September of 2010, and while the Nokia gaming community will be open until the end of next year, N-Gage won’t be rolling out any new games. Starting next October (2010), Nokia users will be able to purchase games through the Nokia apps store, Ovi.

If you’re one of the five people using the N-Gage platform, Nokia posted a handy FAQ on their N-Gage blog about the switchover:

So, you might ask, what will happen to the current N-Gage platform?
N-Gage games can be purchased until the end of September 2010. While the N-Gage.com site together with the N-Gage Arena and other community features will remain in operation throughout 2010, the Ovi Store will be the new central place for all the mobile games that Nokia and other publishers offer from this point forward. We will no longer publish new games for the N-Gage platform.

What will happen to N-Gage Arena?
N-Gage Arena will remain in operation throughout 2010 and players can e.g. keep posting their high scores until then. We understand that people value the ability to manage their games and communicate about them, and we are working on offering such community elements through Ovi. Games publishers are free to use community features of their choosing in their apps, the feature set is not defined by Nokia. Social Networking applications are some of the most downloaded on Ovi Store, emphasing the power of connecting people.

What will happen to my games?
Your games are safe – all your purchased N-Gage games will continue to work on your N-Gage compatible mobile device and they’re yours to keep. However, community features of the games will not be functional after 2010.

Do you have plans to bring community elements to the Ovi Store gaming experience?
Yes, we understand how important community is to our gamers. You can already post reviews of games and other apps in the Ovi Store. We are actively working on offering more community elements through Ovi and we encourage developers to use community features in their applications. Stay tuned – there’s more to come on this.

Why doesn’t Nokia keep N-Gage as a separate gaming platform?
As mobile gaming evolves and begins to encompass social gaming, we want to offer one store front with an even broader portfolio of games – games for everyone. It’s much more convenient to have one place to get all your mobile games, and this it what Ovi Store http://store.ovi.com/games provides. Mobile gaming is one of the most popular activities in the Ovi Store, with games being the #2 most downloaded category for premium content. And besides having all mobile games in one place, people can access other services like Mail, Maps, Music and many more via www.ovi.com.

What will happen to N-Gage.com?
The N-Gage.com site will remain in operation throughout 2010, with the exception of the N-Gage Store which will remain open until the end of September 2010. However, we recommend people to visit Ovi Store to play the latest games – many familiar games and so much more.

Will you stop shipping devices with the N-Gage application pre-installed?
We will continue to sell devices with N-Gage application pre-installed for some time, however we will no longer ship new devices with the application pre-installed.

Games will be available through the Ovi Store which is already supported by 100 Nokia device models and growing. Ovi Store will be pre-installed on most new compatible Nokia devices including Symbian S60 & Series 40 from Q4 2009.

[Information Week]