N-Gage mark two: 'Like Xbox LIVE for mobile'

Is mobile gaming finally coming of age?

Forget about the awful Cornish-pasty style original N-Gage phone, Nokia has launched N-Gage mark two today, with the focus squarely on quality software and an ‘

The ‘official announcement’ from Nokia is due Monday, but a quick look at NGage.com indicates that there are four games already available Asphalt 3: Street Rules, Brain Challenge, World Series of Poker Pro Challenge, and Creatures of the Deep.

Tony Mott, editor of gaming bible EDGE, commenting on the new N-Gage service, said:

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"It's certainly an improvement on the original N-Gage. If the system works as well as Xbox LIVE, to which it looks similar, then it will be great for the social side of gaming and become a platform in its own right.

"It's good that it works across a range of fairly standard phones because it gives gamers choice and, therefore, Nokia a broader market. But ultimately it's all about the games. If they're specifically designed for phones rather than as knock-offs of console games then N-Gage has an excellent chance of making mobile gaming a lot more relevant."

Loads of games

Pocketgamer.com promises that more games to follow in the very near future including, System Rush Evolution, Space Impact Kappa Base, Tetris and Block Breaker Deluxe and Nokia expects to have around 30 games available on the service by the middle of 2008.

The service supports a number of different handsets – specifically N81, N81 8GB, N82, N95 and N95 8GB – with more to be announced. Users simply download and install the application on their phones.

Half of the games to date have been developed in-house at Nokia (“They’ve taken on some pretty decent developers,” according to Pocketgamer editor Stuart Dredge) and half have been created by third parties such as Electronic Arts, Gameloft and Glu Mobile.

Teething troubles

And while the system seems to be experiencing the typical teething troubles associated with these things, it promises to give mobile phone gaming a much needed boost in 2008.

“It is a huge step forward from the original N-gage, mainly because it's available for a bunch of phones so it's much more accessible,” said Dredge.

“It also corrects a lot of the problems with mobile gaming – so you get free trials of games and you can see videos, you can then choose to buy after trying them out.”

The full versions of N-Gage games will cost between £6 and £8.

Xbox LIVE for mobiles

Dredge added that: “There’s a good flow of games coming out for it and Nokia is making sure it's working on lots of handsets… The N-gage app 'N-gage on a phone' is basically Xbox LIVE on a phone – with similar community elements, N-gage points, friends lists and so on.

Apparently, the Fishing and Brain Training games are particularly good. Though TechRadar is only concerned with Super Monkey Ball and we await confirmation on the N-Gage version of that from publisher Glu mobile (hopefully) very soon…

Watch out Monday for the full, unexpurgated official announcement straight outta Nokia HQ in sunny Finland.