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Gaming History You Should Know – The Nokia N-Gage June 6, 2021

Posted by Maniac in Gaming History You Should Know, Uncategorized.
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It’s Sunday! Welcome back to another Gaming History You Should Know, where we highlight some of the best independently produced content focused on the history of gaming. Nowadays, it’s common to play a high quality game on your portable phone, but 17 years ago that just wasn’t possible. Today, we’re going to highlight one of gaming’s biggest missteps of all time, where a major company just jumped too early and it eventually cost them everything.

Let me set the scene for you guys. It was E3 2003. I was an 18-year old kid attending his first E3. While I was there to preview the PC games, I was exposed to everything the show had to offer (and it was GLORIOUS!). In 2003, when it came to handheld gaming, Nintendo was sitting on the top of the mountain with Game Boy Advance partially due to the incredible success of games like Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire. Cell phones were starting to take off, with almost everyone that year having a personal one small enough to fit in their pocket. One of the biggest cell phone makers at the time was a company called NOKIA, which enjoyed a enormous market share due to their simple yet well-made handsets.

In 2003, a common cell phone was small, would last about a day on a single charge, could make calls and send simple text messages, and be a calculator. That was about it. If you wanted to play games on the go, you needed either a laptop or a GBA, and that would mean carrying another thing in your pocket along with your wallet and phone. At E3 2003, NOKIA announced they would change all that, and announced they were making a cell phone that could play games, and it would be called the N-Gage.

When the N-Gage eventually released it was a total flop. In fact, to say it flopped would be an understatement of the year, it flopped HARD! The price dropped almost immediately, and a hardware revision rushed to market, but it was all for naught. The handheld didn’t sell, and gamers went on to buy the Nintendo DS and the Sony PSP instead. What happened?

Derek Alexander, host of the YouTube Channel Stop Skeletons From Fighting, has just produced what I would consider the definitive history of the N-Gage. If you ever wanted to see what would happen when a company does it WRONG, you need to watch this.

If you asked me, I don’t believe NOKIA ever really recovered from the N-Gage failure. The company went on to make a few more bad business decisions like partnering with MS to make nothing but Windows Phones at a time only iPhone and Android phones were selling, and that was that.