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Nokia goes for gaming

Phone giant launches convergence device

Mobile phone manufacturer Nokia yesterday revealed its latest mobile phone-cum- games console, which will directly challenge the monopoly held by Nintendo's GameBoy.

The so-called 'N-Gage game deck' combines the applications of a mobile phone with wireless gaming technologies, allowing users to enjoy multiplayer games and remote gaming.

"Gamers will be able to take advantage of the unique capabilities that the Nokia N-Gage offers, including multiplayer game content and loading high scores and screenshots," said Ilkka Raiskinen, senior vice president at Nokia's entertainment and media business unit.

Console manufacturer Sega will provide titles for the unit, including one featuring its trusty Sonic the Hedgehog.

The N-Gage supports two kinds of games — smaller downloadable titles and rich media formats on 2MB, 8MB and 16MB MMCs (multimedia cards), according to Nokia's website.

The MMCs can also be used to store MP3 files, and the device has a built-in FM radio, Nokia executive vice president Anssi Vanjoki said.

There will be no regional blocks on the cards, he said, so that a game bought in Japan can be played on a phone bought in Germany, for example.

Bluetooth short-range wireless networking will allow gamers to play with others in the same room, while GPRS (general packet radio service) connectivity permits multiplayer online gaming, Raiskinen said.

T-Mobile, the first operator to agree to work with Nokia and Sega, will develop online gaming services in time for the Christmas launch.

Nokia hasn't set pricing yet, but in order to compete with the GameBoy it will need to be around £100, which may mean the company has to sell the units at a loss.

The N-Gage is the shape of things to come in the mobile market, continuing the trend for convergence devices such as mobile phones and MP3 players.

"It's about getting the most from a mobile. The more one device can do the more money the consumer will save in the long term," said a spokesman at the company.

The device will be available from the end of 2003.


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