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Did hackers expose N-Gage games?

Mobile phone giant Nokia is investigating whether someone managed to disable security that protects its N-Gage cell phone games.

Mobile phone giant Nokia is investigating whether hackers managed to disable security that protects its N-Gage cell phone games.

If various Web reports are true, someone has discovered a way for the games to be played on any cell phone that, like the N-Gage portable video game machine, uses the Symbian operating system. Symbian is an overwhelming favorite among handset makers that develop next-generation cell phones.

"We are aware Web sites are reporting to have hacked copies of our games," a Nokia representative said. "We are looking into such claims and take them very seriously. It would allow pirates to steal copyright-protected material, and that is illegal."

The representative said Nokia is still investigating the claims, which were first reported in late October. However, the representative raised the possibility that N-Gage games, which generally cost between $30 and $35, may soon be available for free over the Internet.

At least 400,000 N-Gage units have been shipped to retailers since the gadget debuted in early October. The device is Nokia's first phone built specifically for gaming.

The N-Gage initially cost $200 more than Sony and Nintendo portable game players. Nintendo, predictably, dismissed the challenge from N-Gage, citing price as a factor. "Mainly, we find that when you go over $99, it's a hard thing to sell," a Nintendo executive said in an earlier interview.

The N-Gage is one of several devices aimed at pushing forward the developing market for mobile games. Sony this summer announced plans for the PlayStation Portable, a handheld adjunct to its market-leading home console that will include an advanced screen, multimedia capabilities and a new optical storage format. Sony has yet to disclose a price for the device, which is set to go on sale in late 2004, but it's likely to be in the same range as the N-Gage.