In 2003 Nokia released the original N-Gage. The “taco phone” had massive potential from the get-go with huge expectations riding on its back. It was the first dedicated gaming phone, a novel idea, and Nokia’s way of competing with Nintendo after the latter refused to collaborate on a product despite their talks. However, the OG N-Gage came with a couple of execution flaws that hampered its potential; namely the location of the MMC card slot under the back plate and requiring the removal of the battery, and a very inconvenient location for the speaker grill, causing all sorts of “memes” back in the day.
It also demanded a hefty $300 price tag, making it about 3 times as expensive as Nintendo’s Gameboy offerings. Enter the N-Gage QD; a smaller, more durable and affordable “successor” which aimed to right the wrongs of the original in 2004. You can watch it in action here:
In order to slot at a lower price point, the N-Gage QD did come with its own set of drawbacks, like the lack of stereo speakers, a less “premium feeling” finish and the removal of FM radio. Objectively though, I do believe it was better executed than the original in serving its purpose. But ultimately the N-Gage project failed altogether. Nokia didn’t manage to sell as many units as they would have liked, but the bigger disaster was the disappointing number of games sold for the console. Instead of shelving the project all together, N-Gage shifted into a software service found on Nokia’s N series of devices, with phones like the N81 for example even coming with dedicated gaming “buttons” in a more conventional dual sliding form factor.
Looking back at the N-Gage, it was clear that the idea was brilliant and way ahead of its time. But I can’t help but feel like the technology wasn’t fully ready yet for such a concept, the execution was a bit questionable, and the market wasn’t as accommodating to the idea of gaming on a phone as it is today. Perhaps Nokia should have continued to hone the idea rather than giving up on it, considering their scale and capabilities back then. Whatever the case was for why N-Gage was abandoned, it built a cult following around it. I still remember as a 12-year-old how much I wanted to own one, and I’m glad I got to fulfill such a silly dream, even if it was 18 years too late 🙂
Did you own the N-Gage? What did you think of it? Share your thoughts with us in the comments!
Check my other videos from the Nokia Nostalgia series on Youtube.