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T-Mobile First in Line for Nokia N-Gage

Hoping to entice the multi-billion dollar gaming industry to its mobile service, Deutsche Telecom's T-Mobile International division Tuesday said it will be the first carrier in the U.S. to offer the new Nokia N-Gage platform with an complimentary wireless plan.

In a promotion starting October 7, T-Mobile said it will offer the online gaming platform for $299 including a charger, rechargeable battery, stereo headset and USB cable. The wireless carrier is also offering free wireless game play for 30 days and a combined total of $50 worth of free voice and text messaging. The provider said its regular unlimited access package for N-Gage starts at $9.99 per month.

"Gaming is a social activity. Playing against real people adds excitement that cannot be captured by a computer," T-Mobile's vice president of product marketing Nick Sears said in a statement. "Now T-Mobile customers can compete against each other anytime, anywhere in the T-Mobile network. And, with our unlimited pricing promotion, we've removed all the barriers to social gaming."

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. 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.

The N-Gage is expected to go head to head with Nintendo's GameBoy Advance. The promotion will be available at Target, Electronics Boutique, Game Stop and Circuit City.

"Gamers will be amazed by the multi-layered experience of the mobile online multiplayer environment," said Nada Usina, general manager of Nokia's entertainment and media unit. "This is where mobility puts a whole new spin on competition and the popular titles gamers want."

In addition to its deal with T-Mobile, Finland-based Nokia launched its own competition called "ConnectCoder, N-Gage Mobile Game Deck Game Battle 2003."

The idea is to inspire game developers across Europe, the United States and Canada to come up with new game ideas. The competition runs until January 31, 2004.

The phone giant says the winning ideas will be those that develop original games where mobility plays a central role. Other key criteria include high-quality graphics, exciting characters, engaging storylines and interactive gameplay that highlight the social aspects. The Nokia N-Gage Publishing Team will judge entries and winners will be notified in early 2004 by e-mail.

"Given the unique features of the Nokia N-Gage, we expect people to submit some amazing ideas that really take advantage of the Bluetooth wireless technology and GPRS connectivity, as well as the community spirit of the N-Gage Arena," said Nokia senior vice president Ilkka Raiskinen.

In addition to 30,000 Euros to be divided between the top three entries, the winners will be invited to the Game Developers Conference 2004 and to present their winning ideas to the Nokia N-Gage Publishing management team.