Nokia unveil developer details of next generation mobile gaming

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Nokia is talking to developers about its next generation of mobile gaming at GDC in San Diego. The new platform, evolving out of the N-Gage, will be based on S60 and we can expect to see the first devices supporting it in the first half of 2007. Nokia is also showcasing its SNAP Mobile solution which enables online and community-based Java gaming.

Nokia's next generation gaming platform is a direct successor to the N-Gage, but we will not see one direct replacement device. Instead we will see a range of devices that support the new gaming platform. Nokia have not committed to building a gaming specific device, but it is likely that some device may be optimised for gaming in the same way that the Nokia N91 is optimised for music or the Nokia N90 is for imaging. As a result of this strategy we can expect in 2007 to see around as many as 5 million devices sold that will be compatible with the next generation platform, with device numbers potentially rising to 10's of millions in the following years. By adopting a platform approach Nokia will be hoping to attract developers and will be looking to replicate the success of the S60 platformisation in the mobile gaming space.

Key elements of the new platform include high performance and improved support for 3D graphics and end to end management. Nokia is looking to create a complete end to end mobile gaming solution, providing the tools for development, the feature set for community creation and interaction, the devices themselves and the platform for game management, purchase, distribution and installation. The general message will be that Nokia is doing all the hard work to create the infrastructure and the marketplace, and it is up to third parties to come and join the party.

Nokia will be building on the N-Gage Arena and we can expect to see community continue to be an important part of Nokia's mobile gaming strategy. Connected mobile gaming via Bluetooth, cellular connections and WiFi remains a key part of Nokia's vision.

However another important part of Nokia's strategy is to innovate in game distribution. Games are likely to be available over the air, and via Internet download. Indeed we can expect to see a marked move away from the traditional game retailers distribution channel (although this will probably still be available) to a user driven Internet based distribution model.

At the GDC Nokia are highlighting the benefits to developers. One of the major criticisms of the N-Gage platform was the relative difficulty and expense of development which  resulted in fewer third party titles that might have been hoped for. Nokia is looking to address this both through it platform (not just one device) strategy and by providing a stable and affordable development platform. A C++ toolset will be provided based on the Carbide toolchain using the Eclipse IDE (expect to see or similar later this year) and full software and hardware development kits will be available. Nokia clearly hopes by introducing the new platform to developers a year before compatible devices become available to encourage companies to investigate and develop for the platform.

Nokia is also talking about SNAP mobile at GDC. SNAP Mobile is Nokia's solution for connected Java mobile gaming. It uses the same backend as N-Gage Arena. The SNAP Mobile solution includes client/server technology, service hosting and community management, as well as developer tools and support, content certification and an existing selection of connected mobile Java games. It is aimed at both developers (providing an easy way to add online multiplayer to new and existing games, and Operators who can use it to provide a compelling portoflio of connected games to their customers.

To underline the commitment to gaming Nokia has also launched Forum Nokia Pro Game Zone to provide enhanced support and resources to game developers.

Developers show are interested in find out more can read up on numerous documents on both SNAP Mobile and the next generation gaming platform at Forum Nokia.