I've always hated mobile phone games, from bloody Snake to this ridiculous game I had on an old Sony phone that involved knocking monkeys out of trees by throwing bananas at them. The screen is the wrong shape and the buttons are always too close together. It's just no fun. So three cheers for Nokia and its widely derided N-Gage platform, which is gamely being relaunched yet again.
This time, however, Nokia has done something sensible -- instead of a ridiculous phone no one wants, it has created a lovely looking smart phone, the N81, the first in a range of phones which will support N-Gage games. The games themselves will cost around £5 and be downloaded direct from Nokia's new Ovi store. Glu and EA Mobile, the biggest players in the mobile games market, are committed to supporting the platform.
At a stroke, this makes mobile games infinitely more attractive to developers. The N-Gage standard means decent hardware to create good-looking games, and a wide enough user base to make development feasible, even at that low price. For players, handsets such as the N81, with its landscape-format screen and familiar, console-esque controls, make the platform much more accessible.
Of course, Nokia may never sell enough handsets to create a user base big enough to attract the investment necessary for genuinely innovative titles, but it has removed a few very large barriers to the growth and development of the mobile games market.