Combining cell phone technology with a graphics processor designed for portable gaming, Nokia enters the competitive handheld video game market with its N-Gage game deck. Released on October 7, 2003 at a retail price of $299.99, the N-Gage features 3D graphics capabilities, an MP3 music player, FM radio, and tri-band mobile phone in a unit smaller than the original Game Boy Advance. Games for the N-Gage fit on standalone cards, with ten titles available at launch that include such notable properties as Sonic the Hedgehog, Tomb Raider, and Tony Hawk's Pro Skater. As a communication device, the N-Gage offers a built-in speakerphone, voice dialing for up to 20 numbers, and the ability to surf the Internet with an integrated XHTML web browser and full e-mail support.
Weighing less than five ounces, the handheld device has a length of five and a quarter inches, is nearly three inches wide, and is less than an inch thick. Like the original Game Boy Advance, the color screen is positioned in the center, with a directional pad referred to as a "controller key" to the left and a series of keys to the right. Two buttons are specifically designed for use with games, while the rest are used to dial phone numbers, scroll the display, or jump to specific applications. Battery life varies depending on how the handheld is used, with an estimated four hours of talk time, three to six hours of game time, and up to 20 hours of radio. The stereo FM tuner comes with 20 preset stations, and players can listen to the radio while playing games.
Since the system itself combines the worlds of gaming and communication, a key selling point is the ability to compete online with other players. Released concurrently with the game deck is Nokia's own "N-Gage Arena" service, where players will be able to enter global ranking competitions, download cheats and strategy guides, record and send game footage or pictures, and directly challenge other owners from around the world in games supporting the service. N-Gage Arena is initially free on a trial basis, but connectivity charges and other fees may apply depending on the type of content offered by publishers.
Another key feature of the N-Gage is the ability to save digital music files to a separate memory card (sold in either 64MB or 128MB storage options) to use as ring tones or for listening. The deck comes bundled with a charger, stereo headset, USB cable, recording cable, adapter cable, user's guide, and a CD-ROM. The latter allows players to manage digital files transferred from the handheld to the PC (and vice versa) via USB. Multiplayer gaming among friends is also supported via Bluetooth technology for wireless play without having to go online. Rounding out the list of features is an integrated calendar, to-do list, pin board, and address book to help players keep track of those "other" events outside of gaming.
~ Scott Alan Marriott, All Game Guide