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Is the N-Gage a Gameboy Killer?

I am an avid video game player and am quite intrigued by what I saw from Nokia at the CTIA show in New Orleans. The N-Gage is the first real competitor that I have seen for my beloved Gameboy Advance. I was all set to purchase the Gameboy Advance SP, but the Nokia N-Gage has given me a reason to pause, at least momentatirly. The technical capabilities in these devices say a lot about where portable gaming is going…

The Nokia N-Gage is a very interesting device and could really change the nature of mobile gaming. To my knowledge, this is the first gaming-centric mobile device that includes support for data and voice communications (I am explicitly excluding the HipTop as it is not gaming-centric). For a mobile gaming device to present a real challenge to the world-beating Gameboy, I believe there are a few hard requiirements:

  1. Agreements with major publishers – For video games, consoles matter, but content is king. The only way that the N-Gage will reach the critical mass required to challenge Gameboy. If Nokia can sign up more publishers of THQ-quality, they could make a legitimate claim to having competitive content.

  2. Battery life that mirrors GBA, not your handheld mobile phone – One of the great things about the GBA is that it has incredible battery life on two AA batteries. I can get something approaching 20-30 hours of playing time on twin AA batteries.

  3. Low Cost – I strongly believe that the sub $100 price point has been what has driven the 100 million+ unit sales for Gameboy in its 14 year history. The pricing for the N-Gage has not yet been announced. My suspicion is that it has not been announced because Nokia is nowhere near the $100 price point.

One of the most interesting features that the N-Gage offers is two flavors of multi-player gaming. The N-Gage supports both Bluetooth for local gaming and GPRS for WAN multiplayer gaming. It seems to me that gamers are really thinking hard about ways in which to enable mobile multi-player gaming.

What is also of interest is the fact that the N-Gage is targeting a much more sophisticated audience than the traditional GBA audience. The N-Gage has support for simultaneous functionaliy (place a call while playing a game) and the ability to do data synchronization.

I am going to withhold my final judgment on the N-Gage until they mention the price. I am cautiously optimisitc.

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