It's an N-Gage QD. That's silver. Next!
(Ehrm, we'll need a bit more than that, Ewan - Rafe)
Will we? Okay…
It'a an N-Gage QD. That's silver. Nothing else has changed. Next!
(Oi!!! - Rafe)
But it's true! And here's the perennial problem. Where the Nintendo's and Apple's of this world can create a massive demand in the market through a simple cosmetic change (think of the impact from the Nintendo Gameboy Advance "Pokemon" Edition handheld), the media and parts of the handheld gaming industry are going to see this as Finland "not understanding the market" and "using cheap marketing." The fact that everyone else does this and doesn’t get called in the mainstream is neither here nor there.
And this is a shame, because the N-Gage QD Silver is damn sexy. It's acres away from the tired orange/grey combo the AAN review unit is, and improves on the muted grey of my personal device. If you're thinking of getting a QD, then there's no real reason to choose the others. Unless you work for a certain mobile phone company.
The problem, of course, is the perception of the N-Gage, so let's tackle this for the moment. Nokia have only ever released one sales statistic for the N-Gage family, a rather shadowy reference in an annual report. But roughly translated there's about 3 million N-gages out there, and sales of 80,000 to 90,000 a month are probably realistic. A million and a half units a year is a failure? Psion, for their ten years or so as the crown holders for the PDA world, struggled to sell more than a million devices in that time span. They would have killed for numbers like that. That's a comparable number to the number of Apple PowerBooks in circulation, and it's more than the combined sales of Microsoft's "Next Big Thing," the Tablet PC's.
There's been a subtle shift in the N-Gage marketing strategy that ties in with the arrival of Gerard Weiner. Moving away from "it's a gaming device that’s also a phone" to "a phone for gamers" may seem a subtle change, but it's enough for the platform to continue to thrive.
The games catalogue is approaching 60 titles either released or in the final stages of development. These aren't minimalist titles, they're heavyweight names and brands which command instant respect. The return of Pathway to Glory, Asphalt and the X-Men for Christmas 05 may bring about a sense of déjà vu, but I doubt you'll see the accountants complaining - nor and the gamers that loved these titles.
The Fins are no longer taking route one to market. Route one being aimed at direct sales campaigns, store fronts and shelf space. How could you with the PSP looming over the whole market like a steamroller? What's happening is Nokia is recruiting fans through the game titles, as it should be. By buying into existing fan-bases with titles such as the Games Workshop's "Warhamer 40,000," and Kevin Simbedia's "Rifts," this almost guarantees a slew of new fans coming into the system from the sidelines. With a QD and MMC game package units approaching the cost of one of the larger console games, it's almost an impulse buy for the gamer looking for a phone.
And never, ever, underestimate the strength N-Gage has simply because it is a Series 60 platform. That opens up over 3,000 applications. Beyond jaw dropping games like Stunt Car Extreme, you've got practical built-in and third party apps that turn your phone into something comparable to a laptop. While the PSP crowd go bananas over getting a web browser working on their cracked devices, the N-Gage can load up Opera, an AOL or MSN Messenger client, VPN access to desktop machines, IRC channels, FTP, Doom, emulators for almost every 8-bit platform in the world (Mame, Spectrum, NES, Genesis…) with more released every day.
Nokia still want to be seen supporting the N-Gage system. There have been many opportunities to quietly draw a line under the system, but they just roll with the punches and keep returning to battle. The experience Finland has gained here will be vital in the next few years. So what we have here is a bit of care and attention from the patriarch to reassure the family. Spit and polish to bring the bling into focus if you will. That's exactly what the Silver is. We're still supporting it, you're still buying it, we're not going anywhere, and there's more to come.
It's an N-Gage QD. That's silver. And no matter what you might think, it's doing its job beautifully and will do for a long time to come.