Phasing out in 2010 in favour of Ovi Store.
Nokia has confirmed that its N-Gage platform will be phased out next year, with all the company’s mobile games activities to be channelled through Ovi Store instead.
The news will surprise few in the industry, as most of the execs involved with the N-Gage platform have either left Nokia or been reshuffled into other jobs within the company in recent months.
Mark Ollila, now director of X-Media Solutions, Media & Games at Nokia, explained the decision to ME.
“We are not releasing any more games on N-Gage, although the store - the ability to buy N-Gage games - will remain open until at least September 2010, and the N-Gage service will run through to the end of 2010," he says.
"The message is that Ovi Store is the place to find and purchase mobile games. It's our one-stop shop for games."
Today's news explains why October has been such a prolific month for N-Gage releases - Dirk Dagger and the Nuclear Zeppelin, Mega Monsters, Tiger Woods PGA Tour and Powerboat Challenge have all gone live this month, presumably to clear the decks.
Some games remain unreleased - for example Nokia's Yamake game - but Ollila says the company is looking at ways to bring those titles to Ovi Store in the coming months.
"It's very important to emphasise that Nokia is much committed to mobile gaming overall," says Ollila. "On Ovi Store, games is the number two paid premium category behind apps, and the number two for overall downloads."
N-Gage never really managed to build the momentum Nokia was hoping for when it relaunched the brand as a cross-handset gaming service early last year, following its flop first time round in 2003-2005 as a pair of dedicated games phones.
Nokia released a series of innovative games for N-Gage Mk. II, including Creatures Of The Deep, Reset Generation and ONE, and won plaudits for the N-Gage Arena community that wrapped around all the games.
However, it proved more technically difficult than expected rolling out N-Gage to a large range of handsets, and it didn't help that in July last year, Apple launched its App Store for iPhone and stole the mobile gaming thunder.
Developers and publishers flocked to the App Store, and while big firms like EA, Gameloft and Glu Mobile did release N-Gage games, they tended to be ports of their existing Java titles, in contrast to the resources they were investing in iPhone development.
The writing was most clearly on the wall in October last year at Nokia’s own Nokia Games Summit, when EA Mobile delivered a brutal-yet-honest rundown of N-Gage’s problems, including revenue shares, certification, the SDK and handset fragmentation.
For more on the decision to can N-Gage, as well as Nokia's plans for gaming on the Ovi Store, read our full interview with Mark Ollila.
UPDATE: Nokia has also now published the news itself, on the official N-Gage blog.