With the PlayStation Phone rumour-mill now perpetually turning, an Android-powered gaming handset now seems ever more likely. But before our excitement reaches uncontrollable levels it is important we pay homage to one of mobile gaming’s early efforts: The Nokia N-Gage.
Launched at a time when Nokia was almost untouchable in terms of design, the N-Gage was feted as the future of mobile phones. It wasn’t. So bad was the N-Gage that it has now all but vaporised into the mists of time.
I was one of the lucky few who fell for the N-Gage’s advertising charms. Rushing out on launch day, I picked one up and immediately got stuck into gaming on the bus home.
To my horror the once loved Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater was so unplayable I found myself unable to pass the first level. This was partly thanks to the N-Gage’s insanely designed control scheme which saw play controlled by multiple buttons made out of a soft gooey substance.
Even better however was the joys of making a phone call on the damn thing. In order to use the handsets microphone you had to angle it sideways on your face. This resulted in walking down the street holding what appeared to be a giant metallic sandwich to your ear.
Some things are best forgotten and the N-Gage is definitely one of them. But that doesn’t mean that the idea of a dedicated gaming handset is a bad one. Nokia just did it badly.
Sony however has such a gaming pedigree that I can’t really see how they can get whatever the Playstation phone becomes wrong. Android is perfectly suited to mobile gaming. It is a very adaptable OS that can be customised easily.
It does however tend to get slow and unresponsive if overloaded with skins and tweaks. The N-Gage was interminably slow and Sony didn’t exactly make a snappy phone with the Xperia X10, so lets hope they keep it simple for the PlayStation phone.
Crucial to the handsets success will be price. Games on the N-Gage were insanely expensive and it did serious damage to the phone’s success. Current smartphone users are used to paying virtually nothing for games that now rival the complexities of the PSP or Nintendo DS. So Sony will have to keep it cheap.
The age of the 1GHz smartphone is now upon us and now everyone appears to carry something capable of gaming and internet. But the mobile phone market is desperate for a dedicated gaming phone and who better to make it than Sony.