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Portables (Games) Entertainment Games

N-Gage - Branding, Image, Follow-Up Possibilities 68

Posted by simoniker
from the not-entirely-flameworthy dept.
Thanks to Costik.com for its in-depth discussion of the Nokia N-Gage's advantages and disadvantages, a post sparked by Scott Miller's weblog post on the same subject, in which the 3D Realms founder argues "Nokia means cell phones to consumers. So, when Nokia jumps into the games market, it doesn't make sense to people", and concludes: "Nokia needs to create a separate company to handle the N-Gage. The 'Nokia' name should never be associated with this device, much like the Toyota name is not associated with Lexus." Greg Costikyan's reply counters: "Launching N-Gage as a Nokia device wasn't a bad idea; the flaws of the device were, however", and ends: "I personally would not be surprised if, two or three years from now, Nokia decides to give it another go, with a new device."
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N-Gage - Branding, Image, Follow-Up Possibilities

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  • My Suggestion... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by BigDork1001 (683341) on Wednesday March 10, 2004 @03:13AM (#8518725) Homepage
    My suggestion would be that before they release their next device they listen to their audience a bit more. There's no way they could have with the N-Gage. Or if they did go out and talk with the average gamer who would be buying their product the need to talk to a lot more people. This thing was getting bad reviews from the first I'd heard of it. All the flaws were stuff that could would should have been pointed out very early on and could possibly have been fixed or just scrapped all together and they start over.

    So next time Nokia go out and talk to your target audience some more. Go to a few malls or something and talk to some people buying games. Go to an arcade or two. Find out where the gamers are and ask them what they think. Don't just assume what we will and won't like. So far you aren't doing so good at that.

    • Re:My Suggestion... (Score:4, Interesting)

      by unixbob (523657) on Wednesday March 10, 2004 @03:42AM (#8518821)
      From what I've seen it's a very capable console with good 3d capability and some good games. The addition of bluetooth for wireless play and a web browser almost makes me want to purchase one.

      But the fact that you will look like a tit using an ngage as a mobile phone just puts me off. and the fact that the ngage can't be purchased without a mobile phone contract stops me from just using it as a console.

      So I agree, complete lack of market research has lead to the downfall of this product. Nothing to do with being associated with Nokia.
      • Re:My Suggestion... (Score:3, Interesting)

        by ooPo (29908)
        You realize there's no actual 3d hardware in the ngage, right? That's all software rendering.
        • "You realize there's no actual 3d hardware in the ngage, right? That's all software rendering. "

          It's the only portable doing it right now.
          • Re:My Suggestion... (Score:2, Informative)

            by antime (739998)
            Except for the GBAs, GP32s and PDAs out there.
        • IIRC it's done through the OpenGL API for Java because many of the Ngage games work on other Java enabled Nokia phones.

          What I meant was the games looked impressive for a handheld, but I wasn't clear in my post.
    • by zonker (1158)
      i agree with most of what you say, however, i remember reading in a gaming mag (nextgen I think it was) a few years ago when ms was developing the xbox and they were so proud that they were doing a 'grassroots' effort, going into gamers homes and talking to them about what they wanted in a game system.

      so it is interesting to me that some of the first complaints about the xbox when it was released was that it had controllers that were enormous and that the box itself was too big... i guess it all depends o
  • And Sony? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Rellik66 (596729) on Wednesday March 10, 2004 @03:13AM (#8518730)

    Was Sony ever considered a gaming company before they released the Playstation?

    • Re:And Sony? (Score:3, Interesting)

      by ooPo (29908)
      No, but then they released quality hardware with fun games with very little hype. Dropped in our laps like a fun, new toy... so sneaky.

      It also helped that the only competition at the time was a disappointing Sega Saturn. By the time they got their act together it was too late.
    • Re:And Sony? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by NanoGator (522640) on Wednesday March 10, 2004 @05:24AM (#8519231) Homepage Journal
      "Was Sony ever considered a gaming company before they released the Playstation?"

      I see what you're saying, but this particular example is a bit faulty on the grounds that Sony's had its hands in entertainment for years. Walkmans, VCRs, TVs, etc. It wasn't a huge leap for Sony to go into the gaming world, nor would it have been for Nokia really.
    • No, but Sony made quality products before the Playstation, so it came naturally to them.

      Nokia, on the other hand, can't release a phone where the battery falls off the back of it while I'm walking. Or a phone that randomly turns off at full battery life in the middle of a call..
  • by dbirchall (191839) on Wednesday March 10, 2004 @03:21AM (#8518751) Journal
    It reminds me of Steve Jobs's comments on "media center" PC's - something about when you're watching TV, you wanna be across the room...

    Of everyone I've ever known who has had any kind of handheld gaming device, I honestly can't say I've ever heard even one person say, "You know, I really wish I could make phone calls on this, too."

    Feeping creaturism.

    • by NanoGator (522640) on Wednesday March 10, 2004 @05:30AM (#8519260) Homepage Journal
      " I honestly can't say I've ever heard even one person say, "You know, I really wish I could make phone calls on this, too."

      You're missing the point a bit. The reason why one would want a game machine/phone/camera/mp3 player/pda/etc is that most people carry cell phones around with them non-stop. Whereas a game machine, MP3 player, camera, pda, etc usually only go with you when you know you're going to want it. Often the moment comes where you want one of these devices for whatever reason, and you didn't bring it because you've only got so many pockets.

      I can at least speak for myself. I have a Nokia 3650. It is my alarm clock and calendar. I get news on it from time to time via the internet, usually when I'm waiting for Burgerville to deliver my meal. Yesterday I played Snake while waiting for an appointment to start. Its camera has come in handy numerous times. Just recently I snapped a photo of my nephew being silly at a restaraunt. To do all this stuff traditionally, instead of carrying around a small phone, I'd have to wear a trench coat or something. I'd look like Inspector Friggin Gadget.

      Seriously, though, the appeal is there.

      • I have a 3650 too. Yeah, it's a nice convergence, but it's NOT a serious gaming platform. (Though I do have the Series 60 version of Frodo, the Commodore 64 emulator, which I use to play the C-64 versions of Pac-Man and Q-Bert on it! ;) (And actually I'm in a bit of a spat with ATT, since they sold me a 3650 on the grounds that GSM was available in my town and "coming soon" out in the countryside... and then rolled it out in the countryside on 850MHz. I need the new 3620 instead.
      • Thankfully though, companies are tending to focus on the integration of PDA features into phones. PDA features are much more useful than games... although hell, if your phone runs Java you can run anything written to the same platform, be it games, a PIM app, or whatever. I just need to get a phone with a bigger screen before gaming is really feasible. (Those new Motorolas are looking nice for that.)
    • I agree. I'd rather carry my GBA and my 8910 (both excellent at what they do) than some machine that isn't a good phone and doesn't play games very well.

      I think it says something about the N-Gage that it's the only games machine released since the Dreamcast that I haven't bought. It doesn't have any redeeming features (even the GP32 had the 'easy to code for' argument).

      Now, a handheld machine as powerful as a PS2 but with 3G internet access (no phone features!) that was designed soley for mobile online

    • ""media center" PC's - something about when you're watching TV, you wanna be across the room"

      That's why every Windows XP "Media Center" PC ships with TV output, a remote, and a fullscreen interface designed to be readable on a TV and usable with a remote. The IR reciever is even external.

      Now, I think that the "Media Center" PC's are too expensive (who wants to pay $1200 when a TiVo is only $350 *including* Home Media Option).

      Because the Media Center PCs are so expensive, people want to use them as comput
    • Of everyone I've ever known who has had any kind of handheld gaming device, I honestly can't say I've ever heard even one person say, "You know, I really wish I could make phone calls on this, too."

      of course silly, thats cause they were all so embarassed at having to carry something as uncool as a GBA around with them in the first place. just ask nokia.
  • Choice B (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Snowspinner (627098) * <philsand AT ufl DOT edu> on Wednesday March 10, 2004 @03:23AM (#8518759) Homepage
    I've gotta go with choice B here - the fact that it said Nokia on it was not a problem (Any more than the fact that the Playstation said Sony on it, and Sony was known as a maker of Walkmen).

    The problem was that it had a crappy display, crappy controls, and you had to take the battery out to change the games.

    They could have released that under any brand name, and it would have bombed.
    • They could have released that under any brand name, and it would have bombed.

      Accept for Microsoft. If M$ released it...there would be city block long lines around every store. :-)

  • and TEST! (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    If you've ever held one of these in your hands, you know what I'm talking about. The buttons are the same plastic normally used for cell phone keypads, which is too slick/hard for comfortable gaming. Using the phone keypad for fire buttons etc. meant that the buttons weren't located where you'd intuitively want them, and also, the buttons touch their neighbors rather than being separated by empty space (as they are in every other game controller I can think of.)

    And who was dumb enough to think that peopl
    • Re:and TEST! (Score:4, Informative)

      by NanoGator (522640) on Wednesday March 10, 2004 @05:34AM (#8519275) Homepage Journal
      "And who was dumb enough to think that people would be willing to take out the battery to switch cartridges?"

      Heh. The problems you've mentioned, though they suck, are somewhat tolerable. What REALLY bugged me about the N-Gages was that all the demo units I played with had a "out of memory" message that you get when the phone feels it's time to reboot. I have enough of these problems as a Windows gamer, I aint taking that on the road.
  • by Kyn (539206)
    I was considering a humourous post about how we'd need something new to laugh about in a few years, but I'll be serious.

    I don't care that it says Nokia. I don't care that it is a cell phone. I care that it's price is more than double a Game Boy SP. I care that it's execution was poorly thought out (see: removing the battery to change games; looking like a taco while talking). And the game selection: nothing to write home about. If Nokia wants to give it another go, more power to them and best of luck.
    • I don't care that it is a cell phone.

      +

      I care that it's price is more than double a Game Boy SP

      =

      you missing the point of the whole thing in the first place.

      but nokia probably did over estimate the demand for a phone that played playstation games as well.
  • I understand the whole Toyota/Lexus argument. I feel this is not the case with the n-gage. Lets face it, it is a poor product. And the taco-factor puts it over the edge. Branding may very well have been part of the problem, as could entering a handheld market already packed full of competitors, but the reason you won't see the PSP flop is because it is going to kick ass, plain and simple. The N-gage does not, I'm sorry, but thats all there really is too it. Gamers are discerning customers who go for p
  • The mistake that Nokia made is that they tried to market it as a "cell phone". Is the N-Gage a cell-phone with a lot of add-ons or is it a handheld device that happens to make and receive phone calls?

    That's the problem that cell-phone companies are creating for themselves. They think that adding-on features to a cell-phone means it's going to be sold as a cell-phone. Nope. Nothing could be further from the truth. If you make a gaming device, you've got to design, implement, market and sell a gaming device.
    • It's a series60 handphone that happens to have a 8 way pad. that's what it is in reality, from specs point of perspective, and from functionality point of perspective as well. as such it's not bad(granted, it is not for midgets either). I don't believe the development costs were that high for the thing(It doesn't have anything 'new' actually) nor will they be bleeding dry from developing "ngage2" or whatever model will they add to their line soon enough.

      is your pc sold as a gaming device, was the ibm pc's
  • Correct me if I'm wrong here, but didn't people consider the Playstation 2 to have a pretty weak launch, without enough compelling games? People bought it for the promise of coming games, belief in the brand, and a secondary feature - DVD playback.

    But then, as someone commented about the time the first Playstation came out, nobody would say the competition put up much of a fight or had stronger launches when they did launch. It's all relative I suppose ...
    • by Anonymous Coward
      I'd go so far as to say that the PlayStation also had a weak launch. Can you remember any of the launch titles? Wipeout wasn't a launch title - it came out almost a year afterward. Same with Resident Evil, and Crash Bandicoot. The only launch title I can recall offhand in Intelligent Qube...and that's hardly a great way to kick things off. The original Twisted Metal might have also been there, but I really can't recall.
    • Games wise, the PS2 had the weakest launch I can remember. Way weaker than N64, Dreamcast, GCN.. even worse than the XBox!. The only console that comes close is the original Playstation. However, the PS2 launch can be considered a success overall due to the incredible amout of hype that Sony generated. The press just loved the PS2, and with so much publicity going on, almost every single third party publisher knew that they had to jump into the PS2 bandwagon.

      Compare that to, let's say, the GCN launch. The

  • by Andy_R (114137) on Wednesday March 10, 2004 @05:00AM (#8519146) Homepage Journal
    The N-Gage would have been a flop whatever name was written on it, because it's a fatally flawed product.

    The Lexus comparison is inappropriate. The reason Toyota created a different brand name for Lexus is because the knew there would be consumer resistance among executive car buyers to a very expensive Toyota, no matter how good it was. As the failure of the Volkswagen Phaeton shows, they were right.

    The N-Gage isn't a premium product aimed at stuck-in-their-ways 50+ executives who are being asked to spend 6 months income in one go, it's a phone aimed at kids, so sticking a (formerly) respected phone company name on it is entirely appropriate.

    Having said that, there *is* a really good reason the phone should not have had Nokia written on it that the article seems to have completely missed - there are a whole generation of kids growing up with 'Nokia = embarassingly bad design' lodged in their heads.
    • Keep in mind that "Brand separation" like lexus/toyota, or Honda/Acura splits are only done in North America.. where people seem to be picky about their brands for some strange reason.

      Europeans are more than happy to be driving around in a Honda RSX, or a Toyota IS300...

      I just don't think that having Nokia attached to the console would hurt the sales in the least.. if anything it backs it up as a good product seeing as how Nokia phones are the top sellers over there... I think the assumptions here are fal
      • Actually, as a European, I can tell you we do have the Toyota/Lexus split here, but not Honda/Acura - possibly because we don't (afaik) get any of the Acura-branded vehicles. We also have our Opels branded as Vauxhalls here in Britain.
  • Retardo (Score:3, Insightful)

    by NanoGator (522640) on Wednesday March 10, 2004 @05:18AM (#8519215) Homepage Journal
    "...in which the 3D Realms founder argues "Nokia means cell phones to consumers. So, when Nokia jumps into the games market, it doesn't make sense to people"

    Pretty lame argument. If anything, the Nokia brand helped N-Gage. The problems they have with that machine have nothing to do with the name on the package. They have everything to do with it performing poorly as a cell phone and a game machine. A no-name company could easily wipe the floor with them in this space.

    Don't get me wrong, branding can help. (It can also detract.) But slapping the name Nintendo on this machine wouldn't have done it a lick of good.

    They should, instead, pursue the N-Gage SP.
  • value of a name (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Vincman (584156)
    Sorry I did not have time to read the article, but here is my view on the name issue:

    Sony is a company that uses the same name on all it's product, indicating quality, with the exception of products aimed at the low-price market, which it carries under a different brand.

    A name brings the advantage of association, with quality, class, price, etc. A new name lacks this and thus already deals with a disadvantage.

    Why did N-Gage fail? My view only here and having only see the device, I can only say look, f
    • ...And advertising. That was far, far lower than X-Box and Sony, which are atm it's no. 1 competitors. Most likely the result of too low a budget, too high dependance on it's name, and using too a similar strategy to the mobile-phone market. With mobiles, advertising is not as important, as there are a limited number of competitors and Nokia pretty much holds the top spot.

      In the game-console market, however, it is a _completely_ different picture.
  • You Guys Suck. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Sentosus (751729) on Wednesday March 10, 2004 @09:00AM (#8520003)
    I have played on the N-Gage for a while now and find it perfect. Side talking? Use the friggin Bluetooth adapter since you are required to have one in the car while driving anyway....

    Changing games? Remember that it supports HUNDREDS of java based games for the Symbian OS. I personally run South Park on mine through Real Player.

    You aren't using it to the fullest advantages and yet you sell it short. Screen too small? I love the size of the screen.

    Everything you have all mentioned is your opinions. The system has not failed. It was not even in volume enough at introduction to fill the demand.

    So please open your minds. It may not suit your needs, but I enjoy using it to sneak in entertaining games at work on the small screen that can easily be hidden. I love the clarity of the games for it since they are crisp and clean.

    Keep your Gameboy SP, for I am willing to use my N-Gage to eliminate the amount of items I carry around from 3 to 2 and with a good comfortable phone that works well with bluetooth even if it is in the glove box of my car and I am driving.
    • Re:You Guys Suck. (Score:4, Interesting)

      by chrismcdirty (677039) on Wednesday March 10, 2004 @10:38AM (#8520728) Homepage
      No offense meant to you and I'm not trying to disprove your point. But at my local Gamestop, the only reason they were out of stock was because the few people who did buy them had to keep exchanging them for models that worked. I saw one kid come in with his dad and make his 4th exchange within a month. I then asked the cashier and he said that most of the people who bought them found defects.
    • Re:You Guys Suck. (Score:3, Interesting)

      by StocDred (691816)
      Are you trying to get people to use something they've already decided they don't like? "So please open your minds. It may not suit your needs" You're going to need some stronger marketing language than that.

      It supports hundreds of java games, eh? Whoop-ti-friggin-doo. What are the games that Nokia themselves pushes in all the store displays and tv ads? Sonic, Tomb Raider, and all the cartridge-based games. Not the java games. They tried to compete against the GBA juggernaut and failed. Lesson learned.

      Yo

    • If the point of the system is to maximize carrying efficiency, why stick an extra bluetooth headset in your pocket?

      It may very well support HUNDREDS of java based games, but you could play those as well on your PDA. The attraction of a console is Tony Hawk, not another Tetris clone. And without the cartridge slot being accessible, it really is just another powerful Nokia phone.

      The screen ratio is poorly chosen for anything other than top-down shooters. You may love it, but you are by far in the minorit
  • by caffiend666 (598633) on Wednesday March 10, 2004 @10:58AM (#8520918) Homepage

    Tried playing an NGage in the store, a local Game Stop. The device was too complicated to figure out in the ten minutes I had. Had a small screen and the options were hard to set. Many buttons. Looked and worked more like an all-in-one remote than a handlheld game console.

    They could have solved my issues by setting up some sort of kiosk where I can try the unit out completely and ask questions.

    If I can't figure out a toy in under ten minutes, I'd better be able to program for it later on. Especially when the device costs > $100 and has monthly service fees.

    Freedom is trouble :)

  • Gameboy rules the market. Over the years, many companies have made handheld systems. Not one has succseded in dethroning the gameboy in 15 years. Nintendo didn't make any major changes to the orignal design untill the gameboy advanced, over 10 years after the original gameboy was released. Nintendo ownes the handheld market, plain and simple.
  • by irokitt (663593) <[archimandrites-iaur] [at] [yahoo.com]> on Wednesday March 10, 2004 @04:50PM (#8524780)
    http://www.penny-arcade.com/view.php3?date=2003-08 -22&res=l [penny-arcade.com]
    and, in a somewhat unrelated way,
    http://www.penny-arcade.com/view.php3?date=2003-02 -10&res=l [penny-arcade.com].

    It wasn't the branding. It was the fact that Nokia chose to combine bad marketing with a bad product. And I wouldn't be at all surprised if Tycho and Gabe had something to do with it, either. Gaming culture in general backlashed against the N-Gage and that turned it into a non-product. And who wants to hold something shaped like a taco to their ear, anyway?

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