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EXCLUSIVE: It's all systems go for next-gen Nokia N-Gage

Big publishers check the platform out at top-secret workshop

EXCLUSIVE: It's all systems go for next-gen Nokia N-Gage
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What's happening with Nokia's next-generation N-Gage platform? Nokia announced plans to put N-Gage inside a bunch of its multimedia handsets at E3 2005, and then showcased a number of games at the same show last year.

But since our interview with Nokia's Jaakko Kaidesoja in November, it's gone a bit quiet. Until now, at least. We can reveal that behind the scenes, activity is ramping up, following a top-secret workshop for publishers and developers, held in Santa Monica last week.

The two-day event saw Nokia fully unveil the new platform for the first time, with a series of technical and business presentations to fill attendees in on the specifics. And check the calibre of some of the companies rumoured to have attended, according to a reliable source:

Disney, Sega Of America, Sony Online Entertainment, Universal, Square Enix, Capcom, THQ Wireless, Glu Mobile, Digital Chocolate, EA Mobile, Tecmo, Namco and Vivendi Games were reportedly all there, along with first-party developers (firms developing games to be published by Nokia) including Backbone Entertainment and Foundation9.

Sessions in the Business stream included an explanation of how next-gen N-Gage games will be distributed, including something intriguing called the 'N-Gage activation code system'.

Publishers will also be able to 'track and manage' their N-Gage games, which could imply you'll be able to pass games onto friends in some form, although presumably they'd have to pay to play the full version. Other business sessions covered marketing and customer service issues.

Meanwhile, the Technical stream saw the publishers get their first detailed look at the N-Gage software development kit (SDK), which is only now being sent out to them (first-party developers have had it for a while). Other technical sessions included best development practices, a guide to the new platform's back-end architecture, certification and security.

Another two-day event is happening next week in Madrid, so that European firms can get the lowdown on N-gage too. Speakers at both workshops include Nokia's director of publishing Gregg Sauter, senior title marketing manager Nick Malaperiman, and marketing manager Simon Etchells.

The news isn't surprising in itself. You'd expect Nokia to be holding these kinds of events in the run-up to the public unveiling later this year, possibly at the Game Developer's Conference in March.

But the fact that such high-profile publishers attended last week's event – although it's not clear whether this means they're definitely developing N-Gage games, or just in the process of deciding – is a positive sign for the next-gen N-Gage.

Bookmark our dedicated N-Gage section to keep in the loop.