What's happening with N-Gage? Lots of the executives behind it have either left Nokia or moved elsewhere within the company, and the games roadmap appears to be drying up - even if Nokia did reveal a Dirk Dagger sequel today at its Nokia World show.
We asked Mark Ollila, who used to be in charge of Nokia's games publishing team for N-Gage, but is now heading up a new unit called X-Media Solutions, tasked with finding the links between Nokia's various services: games, music, maps and others.
What's happening with N-Gage? “Well, we have 44 games out, 20 devices supported, it's in 280 countries and 70 operators,” he says. “We're showing Dirk Dagger and the Nuclear Zeppelin here, and Mega Monster will hit the store pretty shortly.”
We've been talking to mobile games publishers and developers at Nokia World, and there's a widespread expectation that N-Gage will be toast in the not-too-distant future, rolled into the general Games category in Nokia's Ovi Store.
That's not something Ollila can confirm, but he did tell us about how some N-Gage titles are making their way onto non-N-Gage handsets - notably Dance Fabulous.
“We're taking it to our touch phones as well, but we're also looking at how we might take some of our content to Series 40 phones, and maintain the brand elements with it. What experience can you get: do we need to do a Flash app or a Java app?”
What about the other high-profile previously-announced N-Gage game: Yamake? Its sharing focus - users create and send each other mini-games - seems to fit right into Nokia's current corporate strategy, but Ollila didn't mention it alongside Dirk Dagger and the Nuclear Zeppelin and Mega Monsters.
“We're still passionate about the idea of sharing and the community elements of that,” he says, clearly choosing his words carefully.
“We've got some titles that we have announced and that are in production, but we're looking at do we need to look at modifying some of the thoughts we had in production to deal with what's happening in the world today? Yamake fits in that: as the industry evolves, we need to bring these new elements into it.”
That, to us, sounds like a possible delay – or perhaps even Yamake finally surfacing as a non-N-Gage application on a wider range of Nokia handsets. We'll have to wait and see.
However, Ollila's new remit includes looking at what can be done gaming-wise with the new N900 handset and its Maemo operating system. Nokia is actually showing off a spectacular-looking technical demo of its Bounce game for the device, making use of its OpenGL ES 2.0 hardware acceleration.
If N-Gage is soon to be sent to the knackers yard, we'll be keen to see how the kind of rich 3D games that it was capable of resurface on high-end phones like the N900.