It’s pretty hard in this day and age to imagine a cell phone that you couldn’t play games on. Application-based versions of Grand Theft Auto, Call of Duty, and many more major titles are available for download on most smartphone App Stores and some new game designers actually intend for their titles to be available ONLY on cell phones. However, back in 2003 this would have been completely unimaginable as the best game on cell phones back then was arguably the classic Snake. Finnish telecommunications giant, Nokia – who created the original Snake on an early model – decided to change this. They introduced the N-Gage: a bizarrely designed ‘taco’ shaped cell phone, which took gaming cartridges.
Running on its own Symbian operating system, you would have to remove the battery of the phone in order to insert a cartridge – a design flaw that led to a re-release in the N-Gage QD the following year. General use of the handset as a phone (yes, it did actually make calls as well) was clunky and unnatural due to its shape and whilst Nokia often came up with some very stylish and unique designs, this one just didn’t work.
The titles that were released on the N-Gage were respectable with ports of Sonic Advance (SonicN), Crash Nitro Kart, Tomb Raider, and FIFA among many other great franchises and they led prospective gamers on to think they were picking up a winner. However, with the announcement of the Sony PSP the same year and a hefty price tag of $299, the N-Gage wasn’t quite good enough to meet its target audience.
It wasn’t all doom and gloom, however, as some individual successes bloomed from the device. Pocket Kingdom: Own the World was critically acclaimed and a very original MMORPG in the sense that characters knew they they were in a video game and would often refer to you as a noob while learning the game.