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Nokia Engages New Game Platform: N-Gage

Cell phone giant Nokia jumped into the mobile gaming business for the first time Wednesday with the launch of its N-Gage game deck.

Shaped like a half-moon and measuring 5.2 inches by 2 inches, the game deck sports a color screen with backlight and a tri-band GSM 900/1800/1900 mobile phone as well as short-range wireless networking technologies like Bluetooth to link to other players.

The Finland-based company said the consoles should retail for less than EUR500 (about USD$500) and will be available in five continents before the holiday shopping season.

The N-Gage is expected to go head to head with Nintendo's GameBoy Advance.

"It takes gaming to the next level," said Nokia executive vice president for mobile phones Anssi Vanjoki. "We are not just going into this business to start a battle...it's about expanding the possibilities for the entire gaming industry."

Already Deutsche Telecom's T-Mobile International division said it would work with Nokia to supply Internet service for the N-Gage. Nokia said other carriers are expected to follow suit.

In addition to playing games, the device features a digital music player (MP3/AAC) and stereo FM radio, as well as the ability to do e-mail, personal information management, XHTML browsing and multimedia messaging (MMS).

The N-Gage runs on the Series 60 platform and Symbian Operating System with Java application support and connects to a PC via USB for music file and application download.

The screen holds 176x208 pixels with up to 4096 colors, an eight-way directional controller "Rocker" for game play and can play up to six hours of games, up to four hours of talk time, eight hours of music or 20 hours of radio.

"It's available anytime, anywhere," said Anssi Vanjoki, Nokia's executive vice president for mobile phones. "It's a fantastic way of time wasting and much healthier than smoking a cigar or drinking a cup of coffee."

In addition to making the N-Gage, Nokia is also playing the part of game producer. The company said it is working with several big-name game publishers, including Activision, Eidos, Sega, Taito and THQ, and other developers.

Games for Nokia N-Gage game deck will be sold separately on game cards (using the MultiMediaCard standard). The company said it will distribute its game deck and titles through the major retail outlets, game-specific and video game retail outlets, as well as in regular mobile phone delivery channels in major markets.

Currently, Nokia says it has 10 games lined up for its new device - a paltry sum considering Nintendo has about 300 titles available for its GameBoy Advance.