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Nokia primes pump for N-Gage

Gaming fans get the chance this weekend to put in advance orders for Nokia's high-end portable gaming machine, set for release this fall.

David Becker Staff Writer, CNET News.com
David Becker
covers games and gadgets.
David Becker
2 min read
Retailers will begin taking advance orders this weekend for Nokia's new N-Gage, the first of several new portable video game machines that are designed to appeal to older consumers.

The N-Gage is scheduled to go on sale Oct. 7, priced at $299. Nokia announced Friday that specialty retailers GameStop and Electronics Boutique will begin taking advance orders in stores and online starting Saturday.

Mobile phone giant Nokia announced the N-Gage late last year, launching an ambitious attempt to push forward the developing market for mobile games. The N-Gage, which functions as a cell phone, will have a high-resolution screen, Bluetooth local networking connectivity and an MP3 player built in.

Nokia is one of several companies betting there's a market among older gamers for a portable device that is more sophisticated and versatile than Nintendo's reigning champ, the Game Boy Advance.

Sony earlier this year announced plans for a portable version of its market-leading PlayStation home console. The PlayStation Portable (PSP) will have an advanced screen, stereo sound and a new high-capacity optical media format.

Tapwave, a start-up based in Mountain View, Calif., plans to introduce a similarly advanced gaming device, code-named Helix, based on the Palm operating system.

Schelley Olhava, an analyst for research firm IDC, said Sony appears to be in the best position to exploit any untapped market for high-end portable game machines.

"Sony has the brand value and a huge PlayStation library," she said. "If I were Nokia and Tapwave, I'd be looking over my shoulder a lot."

Olhava said independent game publishers were much more enthusiastic about the Sony device than about rival systems at the recent E3 game industry trade show in May.

"Publishers across the board were saying, 'We're going to do PSP games,'" she said. "There just wasn't the same level of certainty or enthusiasm for getting involved with these other platforms."